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Is teledentistry coming to a senior living community near you?

September 17, 2015
by Megan Combs, Associate Editor
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You've heard of telemedicine, but have you ever heard of teledentistry? The University of the Pacific is working on an initiative that aims to bring preventive dental care to underserved Californians in senior housing communities. The initiative is made possible by a three-year, $275,000 grant from the California Wellness Foundation to the university, which is a pioneer in the teledentistry field.

So how does it work? 

According to the university, the goal is to demonstrate the financial sustainability of a model of care known as "virtual dental home," in senior living communities. The model uses telehealth technology to link dental hygienists in the senior communities with dentists in offices and clinics. The hygienists provide preventative oral care to residents in the communities. This model is already being used at Kingsley Manor retirement community in old Hollywood, Calif.

"This expansion of the virtual dental home system represents a historic milestone in improving the oral health of the population,” Paul Glassman, professor of dental practice at Pacific’s Dugoni School of Dentistry and director of the Pacific Center for Special Care said in a press release. "It has the potential to prevent oral disease and relieve suffering for tens of thousands of Californians who currently have no access to a dentist."

Glassman has been able to prove that two-thirds of patients seen in a virtual dental home are able to get the care they need on-site.

Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, a nonprofit organization that strives to harness technology solutions that support and enhance well-being in older adults, and QueensCare Health Centers, a Los Angeles-based federally qualified health center that provides primary and preventive care to the underserved, are partners in the project.

Read more about the program here.

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