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UCLA Strives to Improve Access to Dental Care

The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) recently published recommendations for improving access to care in the article “Improving the Oral Health Care Capacity of Federally Qualified Health Centers,” published in the December issue of Health Affairs.

James Crall, DDS, MS, ScD

The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) recently published recommendations for improving access to care in the article “Improving the Oral Health Care Capacity of Federally Qualified Health Centers,” published in the December issue of Health Affairs. The authors assert that oral health must be considered essential to overall health and should be better integrated into primary health care service delivery— especially for young children. These recommendations underscore a bleak statistic: in 2015, only 21% of individuals who use federally qualified health centers received dental care. Access to oral health care, the researchers suggest, can be improved through the addition of dental clinics at such centers.

“One of the first steps necessary to improving access to oral health care is to identify and address major barriers that limit access for young children and pregnant women,” lead author James Crall, DDS, MS, ScD—a professor of public health and community dentistry at UCLA School of Dentistry— tells Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. “In addition, we need to support system improvements that increase the capacity of community clinics to serve as patient-centered dental homes, and increase parents’ and caregivers’ awareness of the importance of oral health in young children.”

UCLA’s recommendations were developed from the UCLA-First 5 LA Oral Health Program. According to data from this program, the average number of children from birth through age 5 who received oral care at the initial 12 participating clinics increased by 85% in the first 2 years of the project. A second phase has increased the number of participating clinics to 22. The authors note that such improvements demonstrate the program’s effectiveness in delivery of care and could serve as a model for oral health care programs across the country.

From Dimensions of Dental HygieneFebruary 2017;15(2):16. 

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