Local dental pilot projects (LDPPs) across California are working to improve the oral health and overall health of the state’s children, according to Children Now, which is asking for support for a one-year extension of these programs.
Even considering the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Children Now said, these pilots continue to support the communities they serve. However, these LDPPs are set to expire in December 2020.
On August 12, Children Now hosted a Twitterstorm with almost 500 tweets and comments using #KeepCASmiling to demonstrate the expansive support that LDPPs enjoy.
Also, Children Now said, cavities are the most common chronic childhood disease and are five times more common than asthma. Though they are preventable, access to dental care continues to be an obstacle, the group said, as less than 49% of the 5.3 million children who have dental coverage through Medi-Cal had an annual dental visit in 2018.
To increase the amount of preventive dental care received in the Medi-Cal program, the Department of Health Services (DHCS) implemented the Dental Transformation Initiative as part of the Medi-Cal 2020 1115 Waiver. LDPPs are one critical component of this initiative, Children Now said.
Thirteen pilot programs are testing innovative strategies to increase access to and use of preventive dental care for Medi-Cal children by delivering community-based preventive services, offering care coordination to connect children to care and delivering culturally and linguistically appropriate oral health education.
Care coordination is the common and strongest characteristic of the LDPPs, Children Now said. Dental care coordinators are community-based, trusted resources who work with families one-on-one to establish an ongoing relationship that meets each family’s needs and preferences such as language, location, and office hours.
With the help of care coordinators, Children Now said, almost 500,000 Californian children and families have accessed preventive dental services and received oral health education through the pilot programs, Children Now said.
LDPPs also bring dental services directly to children via community sites such as schools, Head Starts, WICs, food banks, and medical offices. One pilot in Sacramento County integrated hygienists into pediatric clinics to educate families about cavity prevention, deliver preventive dental services, and refer children to a dentist.
A child will see a physician a minimum of 14 times by the age of five, Children Now said. While 84% of children ages one to 19 insured by Medi-Cal had a visit with a physician in 2018, only 49% of children age 20 and younger had a dental visit, the group added.
The Sacramento County pilot helps close this gap in care through innovative strategies that address the needs of the whole child, Children Now said. To date, the pilot has provided more than 900 children with an in-office dental assessment and oral health education, and 750 children have been connected with a dentist.
Children Now is asking for LDPP supporters to submit written comments to the DHCS at firstname.lastname@example.org or by signing the online letter hosted by the California Oral Health Progress and Equity Network by 5 pm on August 21.
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