Engaged Communities | Virtual Dental Home Case Study

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The work of The Children’s Partnership is rooted, first and foremost, in the needs of underserved communities. Working together with the University of the Pacific, TCP has championed an innovative approach to meeting the dental care needs of California’s underserved children using advances in technology and workforce called the Virtual Dental Home (VDH).

Tooth decay is the number one chronic health problem and unmet health care need among children in California and across the United States. Through our active partnerships with organizations on the ground, TCP recognized that children in low-income communities were not receiving the dental care they need to grow up healthy and succeed. The reasons for this are varied, ranging from a lack of dental providers in underserved communities to a lack of transportation or a parent not being able to get off from work to take their child to the dentist. TCP began using this insight to identify smart solutions that could help ensure kids get the dental care they need and deserve.

Through the VDH, developed by the Pacific Center for Special Care at the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry, specially trained dental hygienists and assistants collect dental information from patients in community settings, such as schools and Head Start sites. The information is sent electronically via telehealth system to a supervising dentist at a clinic or dental office. The dentist uses that information to establish a diagnosis and create a dental treatment plan for the hygienist or assistant to carry out. The hygienists and assistants refer patients to dental offices for procedures that require the skills of a dentist.

TCP has been a champion of the VDH since 2012. From the halls of the State Capitol to the walls of our schools, TCP led a collaborative effort to ensure enactment of AB 1174, a 2014 bill that made necessary payment reforms and workforce changes to allow the VDH to move from a pilot to part of California’s dental delivery system. TCP is also working to secure startup funding, through AB 648 and the 2016–17 budget, to allow for VDH to spread statewide. Our work to promote the VDH grew out of our understanding of communities’ needs, and we continue to advance this smart solution for children and families.

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