From its founding in 1990, the Pacific Center for Special Care prioritized and launched programs to address disparities in oral health and diversification of the dental workforce, including development of alternative care delivery models such as teledentistry; advocacy and integration of oral health programs into the California Regional Center System; implementation of the Pipeline Program to diversify applicants to dental schools; and the first online program for registered dental hygienists in alternative practice (RDHAP).
The Pacific Center for Equity in Oral Health Care (Pacific Center) builds on this legacy by continuing to address the needs of those who require special care and the needs of a broader socioeconomic population that has been — and remains — vulnerable in the wake of limited access to oral health information and care, as well as the Covid-19 crisis. The Pacific Center will address inequities in resources for oral health care and dental education and advocate for health systems and health policies that support broad inclusion of oral health care as an integral and meaningful part of the health care system, available to all.
Our dental programs are an important component of the safety net in the communities we serve. Many of our patients travel from underserved areas to access care from our outstanding faculty and students.
Tens of thousands of patients across Northern California seek dental care in the Dugoni Dental Clinics and many more are served through collaborations with local partners dedicated to serving those who are challenged to find affordable and regular access to appropriate oral health care, such as La Clinica De La Raza in Oakland California, On Lok Lifeways and San Mateo Medical Center.
Our students and faculty serve a diverse population of patients on-site, off-site and through tele-dentistry. Many who seek care in our clinics or from our partners have been challenged to establish a dental home in the past. Some because of limited financial resources, some because of complex medical or social issues. Our students and faculty also serve patients with special and complex needs in our on-campus Special Care Clinic and our Union City clinic.
All our patients at The Dugoni School of Dentistry benefit from our reduced fee structure in the student clinics and access to dedicated faculty with expertise in caring for those with special or complex medical and dental needs. The Pacific Center has also develop protocols for care, such as Overcoming Obstacles created to help caregivers establish appropriate and effective oral care plans and strategies for those who are most vulnerable to oral diseases.
The Dugoni School of Dentistry and The Pacific Center have a rich history of educational, pipeline and workforce development initiatives. These efforts have enhanced the diversity of our dental workforce and created educational programs that help our students and alumni reach the most vulnerable populations and those with unique needs.
We provide a comprehensive curriculum focusing on the care of medically compromised individuals and other populations with limited access to dental services, from pediatrics to geriatrics.
Dugoni School graduates are prepared to serve patients with complex needs in any setting, as part of an inter-professional team. Extramural and inter-professional rotations prepare our graduates to work in hospital settings, long term care, community health clinics and mobile dentistry.
Telehealth programs prepare all practitioners to extend their reach beyond the walls of their practices to those most in need. In addition to our pre- and post-doctoral programs, dental hygiene and our International Dental Studies programs, the dental school provides a wide array of advanced education and continuing education courses for every member of the dental team to improve their knowledge and skills in working with vulnerable populations.
Our Advanced Education in General Dentistry program prepares its graduates to manage patients with complex dental and medical issues in diverse settings. Our Registered Dental Hygienist in Advanced Practice program was developed at the Dugoni School of Dentistry and prepares hygienists for more independent practice in community settings as part of a team focused on improving access to care for those most challenged to travel from their homes or communities for oral health care.
The April 2019 issue of the California Dental Association Journal, which features an introduction by Dr. Elisa Chavez, highlights the disparities seniors face in accessing adequate oral health care and addresses what can be done to reduce oral and health complications. This issue won a Special Citation Award 2020 from the International College of Dentists.
Affording Dental Care
Recent studies from the ADA Health Policy Institute show that while children are reported to have fewer financial barriers to oral health care, barriers for adults have increased since 2005.
Accessing Dental Care
Money-related obstacles to oral health care are highest among older adults. Racial disparities in dental utilization are most pronounced for Hispanic older adults.
Hispanic and Black dentists remain significantly underrepresented among the general population. Enrollment of Hispanic and Asian students has increased since 2005 across all U.S. dental schools, but enrollment of Black students remains at 6.2%, even though 12.4% of the U.S. population is Black.
Educational debt levels for dental student graduates vary significantly by race. More than 20% of Asian dentists graduate with no student debt compared to less than 1% of Black dentists. Black dentists, by far, graduate with the highest levels of educational debt.
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