News and Events

Pacific Launches “Virtual Dental Home” System to Increase Access to Dental Care in California

Dr. Paul Glassman speaks during the launch event in Sacramento.

September  22, 2009

More than 400 foster-care students at the Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento will be able to receive dental care thanks to a new "Virtual Dental Home" system created by Dr. Paul Glassman, professor of dental practice and the Pacific Center for Special Care at the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

The new system uses telemedicine technology to bring dental care into community settings such as the Twin Rivers School District. Through the Virtual Dental Home, people in underserved communities are able to receive preventive and simple therapeutic services in community settings where they live or receive educational, social or general health services. The Virtual Dental Home utilizes the latest technology to link practitioners in the community with dentists at remote office sites.

The groundbreaking project, which has been supported by the California Dental Association Foundation, has received $295,000 from the California HealthCare Foundation and $100,000 from the Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon, as well as funding from several other organizations. It is designed to help address the access-to-care crisis in California by connecting patients with critical dental services.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg learns how portable equipment is used to collect electronic dental records.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg learns how portable equipment is used to collect electronic dental records.

"The collaboration between the California HealthCare Foundation, the Verizon Foundation, Twin Rivers USD, the California Dental Association Foundation and University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry demonstrates that when partnerships are formed we can still do great things in and for our communities even during times of unprecedented budgetary constraints," said State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. To support the effort, Steinberg recently participated in a Sept. 21 demonstration of the system at the Twin Rivers School District offices, one of the sites in California where examinations will take place.

Senator Steinberg represents Senate District 6, which includes the City of Sacramento, parts of Elk Grove, Citrus Heights and Rancho Cordova.

"This new care delivery model provides a much-needed community-based "virtual dental home" for the state's most vulnerable people, who will access dental services in their own communities. It also will remove some of the barriers to receiving care in a traditional dental office setting," said Glassman, project director for the program. "This system allows dental hygienists and assistants working in community sites to collaborate with dentists working in dental clinics and offices to optimize oral health for underserved people."

"The Virtual Dental Home is an innovative example of one of the many ways technology can improve the delivery of health care services," added Tim McCallion, Verizon West Region president. "Verizon is proud to partner with the School of Dentistry, the California Dental Association Foundation and the California Healthcare Foundation to bring this project to the community."

The four-year pilot project will expand and improve access to dental services for people by giving participating dentists the technological capability to examine patients remotely with help from dental hygienists and dental assistants in underserved communities.

Equipped with the latest portable imaging equipment, community-based oral-health professionals collect electronic dental records such as X-rays, photographs and dental and medical histories, and upload the information to a secure website where they are reviewed by a collaborating dentist. The dentist reviews the patient's information and creates a tentative dental treatment plan. After the remote examinations, dental hygienists and dental assistants will perform preventive procedures and temporary restorations in the community and track and refer those people who need to be seen in the dental office.

"This pilot project helps dentists improve the oral health of all Californians," said Dr. Lindsey Robinson, chair of the CDA Foundation board of directors. "Thanks to the generous grants from the California Health Care Foundation and Verizon, we will be able to bring dentistry into underserved communities."

The pilot project will operate at 15 community locations across California in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, the Central Valley and northeastern California.

Planning and start-up activities during the first year will include the development of necessary protocols, data collection and evaluation systems, and a field test at six community locations. Nine more community locations will be added during the second year. The viability of the project will be evaluated at the end of the fourth year.

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