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Pilot Teledentistry Program Goes to Work in California

In Southern California, a pilot teledentistry program called Smiles X-Press is increasing access to care for local children.

A student at Danbrook Elementary School in Anaheim, California, receives a fluoride varnish application through the Smiles X-Press program. MICHELLE CHAN, HEALTHY SMILES FOR KIDS OF OC

In Southern California, a pilot teledentistry program called Smiles X-Press is increasing access to care for local children. The program, which was developed by Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County, is dedicated to providing dental visits to socially and economically disadvantaged children in Anaheim, California. According to a 2015 government census, 16.5% of the city’s population lives in poverty.

With lack of financial stability comes reduced access to dental care, and Smiles X-Press discovered that one school in particular, Danbrook Elementary School, needed immediate intervention to improve the oral health status of its students. Fifty seven percent of children screened at the school presented with dental caries—a common yet preventable disease.

Smiles X-Press is modeled after the University of the Pacific’s Virtual Dental Home program. The success of this program highlighted how early intervention and preventive procedures could be performed in a nontraditional setting. In the Smiles X-Press program, a dental hygienist and dental assistant visit the elementary school weekly and set up a treatment area in an empty classroom. Together they provide services to four students to five students per week, including radiographic examinations, prophylaxes, temporary fillings, fluoride varnish and sealant applications, and oral health education. Students participate through a referral from the school nurse or via school health records.

Data gathered during these visits are digitally sent to a dentist, who reviews the records and, if needed, creates a treatment plan or provides referral to a dentist. The program bills the state’s dental Medicaid program Denti-Cal for those students who qualify.

From Dimensions of Dental HygieneJanuary 2017;15(1):10. 

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