Garden Grove-based Healthy Smiles For Kids of Orange County (USA) is testing a teledentistry pilot program that aims to bring remote dental offices to schools which serve families in a socially and economically disadvantaged area. If the program is successful, these schools will soon have their own dental office.
According to The Orange County Register, the pilot program (called the “Smiles X-Press”) is first being tried out at Danbrook Elementary. The organization is hoping that the program can help address the tooth decay problem in the school, which is affecting 57 percent of the kids that the organization has screened. The causes for this are primarily down to a lack of education on dental care, diet and sugary drinks.
“We know how much need there is for this service,” said Elisa Briseno, director of program development at Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County. “Parents here have a lot of barriers getting to the clinic. They don’t have a car, they can’t take time off of work, they need appointments really late in the afternoon or Saturday and Sunday, and most clinics aren’t open on those days.”
The organization is hoping that the Smiles X-Press, which is a first in Orange County and is molded after the University of Pacific’s Virtual Dental Home, can help address this problem. The university was able to discover that certain preventive procedures and X-rays could be done remotely outside a dental office without resulting in unwanted consequences for the patients.
With the remote dental office, children can receive services such as X-rays, teeth cleaning and temporary fillings without the need to visit a dental office. In Danbrook, nurses or the school’s health records refer the children to the program.
The dentist who will be working in the remote dental office will receive the child’s records within 48 hours via computer in order to create a treatment plan. If the child’s condition is serious, parents would be referred to a local dentist. Aside from free treatments, free education about oral health care will also be provided to the entire school.
Aside from bringing the dental office to the school for easier access to the children, the office also seems to have lessened the intimidation factor that most children experience whenever they go to a dentist’s office, according to Briseno. She said that the remote office has actually removed some of the anxiety that children usually feel whenever their teeth is being inspected by a professional.
This can be seen in the eyes of Salvador De La Rosa, an 11-year-old student from Danbrook who had his tooth scraped and polished by a dental hygienist. He was all smiles after he had his teeth cleaned by a professional dentist, which De La Rosa can’t remember the last time he visited one for his inspection and cleaning.
He did say that he knows how important it is to have his teeth checked regularly by a dentist. “If you don’t have healthy teeth, you can’t eat,” he said. “It’ll hurt every time you bite.”