Recent data out of California has shown that close to 90,000 children go to the emergency room for dental care each year. Although the cost of those visits is tens of millions of dollars, often little more is done than prescribing antibiotics to control infections. While that is important, after such a visit a child’s teeth remain decayed, posing significant risks for adult dental health problems, which can lead to illnesses, deaths, huge out of pocket costs and reduced job opportunities if teeth are noticeably missing.
But California is now also the first state in the nation to permit dentists to take care of underserved kids and adults virtually. A law passed at the end of September vastly expands the Virtual Dental Home, a demonstration project that uses telehealth technology to bring dental services directly to patients in community settings, such as preschools, elementary schools and nursing homes.
What a difference a year makes. Last September, as millions of children across the country and in California started back to school, there was real uncertainty about what the new health care law, Obamacare, would bring. While not perfect, the law can take credit for the enrollment of over 8 million people in the Federal or State Exchanges, and another 7.2 million enrolling in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in the states that expanded coverage. Additionally, 3.1 million young people remained covered on their parent's health insurance. And thanks to Obamacare, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition like asthma, diabetes, or a heart condition.
October 2, 2014 -- Oral health advocates are lauding California's new law expanding the Virtual Dental Home (VDH), a program that uses telehealth technology to bring dental services directly to patients in community settings, such as schools and nursing homes.
Wendy Lazarus, founder and co-president of the Children's Partnership, noted that caries remains the largest unmet children's health need in California today.
"This is a huge victory for California's children and children across the nation," Lazarus said in a statement. "By combining workforce innovations with advances in technology, California is now one step closer to closing the dental care gap kids face and reducing the number of children who miss school or are distracted by pain resulting from the number one chronic health problem among children -- dental disease."
Inside a South Los Angeles classroom filled with plastic dinosaurs, building blocks, stuffed animals and Dr. Seuss books, Mireya Rodriguez counted Hendryk Vaquero’s teeth and looked for cavities.
At just 4 years old, he’d already had nine stainless steel crowns and multiple fillings, and his gums showed signs of inflammation and infection. He’d lost a couple of baby teeth, including a capped tooth his mom pulled out after it started bleeding.
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has signed a bill AB 1174 to expand Medi-Cal coverage to teledentistry services beginning on Jan. 1, 2015, Kaiser Health News. Capsules reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
Meanwhile, Wendy Lazarus, founder and co-president of The Children's Partnership, said, "This is a huge victory for California's children and children across the nation," adding, "By combining workforce innovations with advances in technology, California is now one step closer to closing the dental care gap kids face and reducing the number of children who miss school or are distracted by pain resulting from the number one chronic health problem among children -- dental disease" (Pew Charitable Trusts release, 9/29).
WASHINGTON—The Pew Charitable Trusts today commended California’s new law that expands the Virtual Dental Home, an innovative program that uses telehealth technology to bring dental services directly to patients in community settings, such as preschools, elementary schools, and nursing homes.
Under the program, dental hygienists and assistants perform preventive care and provide patient information electronically for review by an off-site dentist. At the direction of the dentist, the providers can also place temporary fillings. Patients who need more advanced care are referred to a dentist. Because of this program, people who often have extremely limited access to dental health services will receive the care they need.
“Pilot programs of the Virtual Dental Home are already improving access to care at dozens of sites throughout the state,” said Shelly Gehshan, who directs children’s dental policy for Pew. “The state’s action will allow the program to grow and serve even more people who are going without care. Pew is proud to be a part of the coalition supporting these efforts.”
“This is a huge victory for California’s children and children across the nation,” said Wendy Lazarus, founder and co-president of The Children’s Partnership. “By combining workforce innovations with advances in technology, California is now one step closer to closing the dental care gap kids face and reducing the number of children who miss school or are distracted by pain resulting from the number one chronic health problem among children—dental disease.”
California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill that would require Medi-Cal, the state’s insurance program for the poor, to pay for dental services delivered by teams of hygienists and dentists connected through the Internet.
California is among the first states to launch such teledentistry services, which are intended to increase the options for patients in remote and underserved areas. Other states, like Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii and West Virginia, are interested in creating their own teledentistry programs but are farther behind, advocates for the projects said.
After California Governor Brown signed AB 1174, Jenny Kattlove discusses the benefit to millions of children who will now receive dental care.
From KQED, I’m Nina Kim.
Governor Brown has signed a bill designed to improve access to dental services for kids. The law expands a program called the Virtual Dental Home, which brings dental care to schools and Headstart classrooms among other sites.
Jenny Kattlove is with The Children’s Partnership: “This is a huge victory for low-income families. These are children who never would have gotten dental care to start with.”
Dental hygienists and assistants will use portable x-ray machines and other technologies and send the information they gather to dentists who will create plans for patients.
On September 27, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed groundbreaking legislation that will help prevent and treat dental disease among California’s most vulnerable populations. A broad coalition of supporters hailed the action as an important step toward increasing access to dental care for underserved children across California. The Governor’s signature echoes the will of the Legislature, which sent the bill to his desk with not a single “no” vote. “Tooth decay is almost entirely preventable, yet remains the largest unmet children’s health need in California today,” said Wendy Lazarus, Founder and Co-President of The Children’s Partnership, the lead organization championing AB 1174. “The Virtual Dental Home not only makes sense and helps solve this serious public health problem, but it also has proven to be cost-effective, safe, and well-liked by children and adults who most likely would have otherwise gone without care.”
Authored by Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra, AB 1174 will allow the Virtual Dental Home (VDH) demonstration project to be spread across communities throughout the state. The VDH is an innovative program that brings dental care to patients in places like schools, Head Start sites, and assisted living centers. As a demonstration project, it has proven to help address many of the barriers that impede countless Californians from receiving the dental care they need, including lack of affordable transportation and lack of dentists who treat children enrolled in Medi-Cal.
Download the full press release here. Read more information on the Virtual Dental Home Project here.
Today, TCP joins a coalition of children’s health advocates to applaud the Governor’s decision to sign SB 18 (Leno/Hernandez) and thank him for continuing California’s commitment to expanded health coverage. SB 18 provides for the state to accept $12 million in private foundation and federal funds to help with Medi-Cal renewals. “More than half of California’s children are covered by Medi-Cal, but they need to renew their coverage every year,” said Wendy Lazarus, Founder & Co-President of The Children’s Partnership. “New income requirements and a confusing renewal notice have slowed renewals, so this assistance program has come just in time.”