UCLA Heads Project to Increase Preventative Dental Care

June 19, 2017
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

Dental care is an essential piece of everyone’s health, but for children, having access to a dental provider is especially urgent. For the half-million Los Angeles children enrolled in Medi-Cal, that urgency is being recognized in the form of increased coverage for preventative care. Continue below to learn about UCLA’s efforts to create a generation of healthy smiles.

For children at greater risk for dental disease, early preventative care is imperative.

A pilot program launched by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is expected to increase coverage for preventative dental care for up to 500,000 Los Angeles children who are enrolled California’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal. The program is part of the Medi-Cal 2020 Dental Transformation Initiative, a bigger project that is expected to continue through December 2020.

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Currently, 6.1 million children and teens are enrolled in Medi-Cal, but only about one-third of those children receive preventative dental care each year. UCLA’s new program intends to address the discrepancy by focusing on three primary goals:

1. The expansion of preventative services in both dental clinics and community settings

2. The coordination of oral healthcare services among providers from dental, medical, and community clinics

3. The use of information technology (IT) to boost both the quality and continuity of care

The new program already features collaboration between several entities, including local dental and medical organizations, Medi-Cal and Denti-Cal, early childhood programs, and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. There are also plans for UCLA’s dental school to increase cooperation with Los Angeles County agencies, organizations, and community programs already focused on improving the health and lives of children and families living in the area.

James Crall, the program director and professor of public health and community dentistry at UCLA School of Dentistry, says, “The Dental Transformative Initiative provides an incredible opportunity to expand UCLA’s recent work with local community partners to improve the oral health of children at greatest risk for dental disease throughout Los Angeles County.”

Crall continues, “Given that one-quarter of all California children enrolled in Medi-Cal live in Los Angeles County, we clearly need to engage more critical stakeholders to create the meaningful system changes that will truly transform oral health care for children on Medi-Cal.”

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