'Virtual dentists' for underserved areas

March 5, 2010 at 8:50 PM
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SACRAMENTO, March 5 (UPI) -- Low-income children and adults at several California sites will be able to receive free dental care, part of the Virtual Dental Home, dentists say.

The program was created by the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, with support from the California Dental Association Foundation, California HealthCare Foundation, the Paradise Valley Community Health Fund of The San Diego Foundation and Verizon.

Karma Bass, president of the Alliance Healthcare Foundation, says the four-year pilot project will expand and improve access to dental services. Participating dentists have the technological capability to review a patient's dental records remotely with help from dental hygienists and dental assistants in underserved communities and then be able to recommend a plan for providing for the patient's dental needs.

Dental hygienists and dental assistants will then perform preventive and temporizing restorative treatment for the patient in the community setting. Patients needing further treatment by a dentist will be provided assistance in getting to a dentist's office or clinic for completion of needed treatment, Bass says.

Nearly 28 percent of California's children have untreated tooth decay, the 2006 Mommy It Hurts to Chew survey indicated.

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