Reaching out to underserved children in childcare

The Teledentistry in Childcare Project joins the Eastman Dental Center’s (EDC)

May 12, 2005

"New models must be developed to ensure oral health care for all in our community and the Teledentistry in Childcare Project is one such model."

The Teledentistry Project is a novel approach to help inner city families easily access the oral health treatment they need for their children in childcare.  Its goal is to develop a new strategy for the prevention and early detection of early childhood caries (ECC).  

ECC is a virulent form of human dental caries that occurs worldwide and affects predominantly disadvantaged children.  ECC has been described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a virulent form of human dental caries that can destroy the primary dentition of toddlers and preschool children.  Many children who suffer from advanced ECC must be treated in the operating room because of the destruction of their baby teeth.  

Teledentistry’s initial approach is to assess the ability of a pediatric dentist to detect signs and symptoms of ECC when images of children’s teeth and other relevant oral health data are transmitted from the childcare center to EDC.  In addition to remote site diagnosis and treatment recommendations, other applications may include remote site consultation.  

Dr. Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski and Dr. Ronald Billings have spent the last several months working under a $48,000 Aetna Foundation grant to provide oral health access to children in day care centers.   

Since 2001, Aetna has awarded more than $7.5 million through the Regional Grants Program.  This includes $5 million for initiatives focused on addressing racial and ethnic disparities in health care and improving the oral health of children and adults.  “We are committed to building healthy communities, with particular emphasis on addressing racial and ethnic disparities in health care,” said Marilda L. Gandrara president of the Aetna Foundation.  

The Teledentistry in Childcare Project is a collaborative effort with the “Health-e-Access” program led by Dr. Kenneth McConnochie who has been using commercially available information technology so clinicians can evaluate and treat ill children at distant child care sites.   

The Aetna Foundation initially funded the Health E Access program in 2003, and provides continuing support for the program's new initiatives throughout the Rochester and surrounding areas. Dr. Charles Peck, President of Aetna's Northeast Region, is pleased to see Aetna’s ongoing support for the Rochester community. "It goes without saying that Rochester has historically been a leader as far as innovation in health care. Aetna is very excited to be a part of that tradition in supporting programs like Health-e-access, Eastman’s Teledentistry program, and many other initiatives in the greater Rochester community.  

Integrating dental and medical services expands upon Dr. McConnochie’s already successful program and creates an early intervention method to reduce disparities and increase access to oral health care for the underserved.  

The Teledentistry project is a new way for dentists to diagnose and treat children affected with ECC, ultimately eliminating the operating room. The dentist utilizes a computer and camera connected to a Synchronous DSL high-speed internet connection (provided by Frontier Corp of Rochester) to examine and interact with the child in real-time. A dental peripheral intraoral camera allows for acquisition of complete intraoral images.  

Another component of the project trains telehealth assistants to identify early signs of possible oral disease and image the mouth for the dentist’s assessment and referral for treatment.  This project will provide dental assessment, early diagnosis and treatment referral for low-income children.  It will help prevent long-term oral health problems, more extensive treatments, and will serve as an educational tool for parents.  

"Eastman Dental Center is part of the New York State academic dental centers, which act as a safety net provider for the underserved and contributors to the well being of their communities through accessible oral health care services." said Dr. Cyril Meyerowitz, professor and chair of the Eastman Department of Dentistry, and director of Eastman Dental Center.  "New models must be developed to ensure oral health care for all in our community and the Teledentistry in Childcare Project is one such model.  As follow up, we are planning to have one of our SMILEmobiles at the site over the summer to provide treatment to those identified with ECC." 

About Eastman Dental Center

Eastman Dental Center is the oral health arm of the University of Rochester Medical Center.  It provides general dentistry and specialty care through its clinical services, faculty practice, SMILEmobile Program, and more than a dozen outreach centers.  For more information, please visit the Strong Health site at http://www.stronghealth.com/ or the EDC site at http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/Dentistry/

About Aetna

As one of the nation’s leading providers of health care, dental, pharmacy, group life, disability, and long-term care benefits, Aetna puts information and helpful resources to work for its approximately 14.4 medical members, 12.8 million dental members, 9 million pharmacy members, and 14 million group insurance members to help them make better informed decisions about their health care and to protect their finances against health-related risks.  Aetna provides easy access to cost effective health care thru a nationwide network of more than 672,000 health care professionals including approximately 400,000 primary care and specialist doctors and 4,084 hospitals.(figures as of March 31 2005). For more information, please visit www.aetna.com

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