A six year research project at the University of the Pacific has concluded that tele-dentistry is an efficient methodology to deliver oral care to those who lack it. Initiating “virtual dental homes” to schools, nursing homes and long-term health institutions can in turn negate school absenteeism, plus the need for parents to leave work to care for an ailing child. The Higher Education institution developed a tele-dentistry system and assessed its performance on more than 3000 patients across California since 2010. The project was facilitated with around $5 million in state/federal funds. The community-based oral care approach employs tele-health technology that brings in access to a pool of trained dental specialists and hygienists where salient information can be shared in real time. Harmon Johnson Elementary school was among the first institutions to open a virtual dental home. The school oral home is a cheery room, next to the cafeteria, where a part-time specialist examines the pupils’ teeth via tele-health, and in turn cleans their teeth, treats oral decays while teaching about brushing/flossing techniques and enamel enhancing nutrition. Having this on site makes life easier for everyone involved; parents don’t have to find time to take their children to the dentist, the kids don’t have to make up the work they missed in class, and teachers don’t have to worry about the amount of content instruction the student has missed.
Having dental homes in community locations such as schools makes a lot of sense for the future of dental care and will encourage more preventative dental health check-ups; a great idea for any community!