The dental school to provide oral health services in long-term care facilities

Key points:

  • Care where it is needed. The new program will provide mobile assistance for the geriatric and special needs population.
  • Practical learning. UCLA dentistry students will have the opportunity to train in community-based public health settings.

The UCLA School of Dentistry will increase access to comprehensive oral health care among geriatric and special needs populations through a new program made possible by the support of the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation’s largest gift to a dental school. The Community Care Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of California.

With a $ 1.67 million grant to UCLA Dentistry’s community-based clinical education program, the dental school will create the UCLA Dentistry MINDFUL project, which stands for mobile dental care for disadvantaged populations living in care facilities. long-term. The project has three primary objectives:

  • Increase the number of expert oral health providers for target populations
  • Increase oral health literacy for target populations and healthcare professionals
  • Increase research on barriers affecting access to care

More than two-thirds of U.S. adults aged 65 and over have had periodontal disease, and nearly 40 percent of nursing home residents have no teeth, underscoring the critical need to provide adequate oral health care to the growing geriatric population in the country. Meanwhile, special needs populations often face waiting times of more than a year for appointments with dentists trained in the complex health conditions they experience.

One of the main obstacles to achieving good oral and general health for these populations is the high demand and insufficient supply of willing and able providers to provide comprehensive care.

“Our goal over the next three years is to establish and fine-tune a self-sustaining program that will provide an additional workforce for communities in need,” said Dr. Lisa Nguyen, program director at MINDFUL and associate director for the clinic based. on the community educational program. “We strive to increase our students’ confidence in treating these target populations and increase the likelihood that they will continue to serve geriatric and special needs populations after graduation. We are so grateful for Delta Dental’s philanthropic support for this program. ”

Nguyen noted that the MINDFUL project will enable trainees to provide oral health services in a non-traditional practice setting, an opportunity that most dentistry students across the nation may not have. Among dental school graduates in 2021 who participated in community-based clinical education rotations, 22% reported wanting to work in public health, compared to a national average of 10% for fourth-year dentistry students. Nguyen is optimistic to see a similar increase in college graduates working with older and special needs populations.

Serving residents of long-term care facilities is in line with Delta Dental’s top priority, providing oral health care for the elderly.

“We know through our decades of experience in the oral health industry that older adults struggle with oral health problems and don’t have the support they need for proper dental care,” said Kenzie Ferguson, vice president of the foundation and corporate social responsibility for Delta Dental of California. “UCLA Dentistry’s MINDFUL project will play a pivotal role in helping address the shortcomings in oral health care experienced by the elderly. The project is central to Delta Dental’s goals of promoting the connection between oral health and general health, providing quality results, improving access and creating greater equity in the treatment received by the elderly. “

Through the MINDFUL project, the dental school will establish new partnerships with community organizations across Southern California that provide dental care using mobile equipment. The school will also bring together staff members from dental, nursing and long-term care facilities to collaborate in improving processes and outcomes. This includes the implementation of the California Department of Public Health Oral Health Toolkit and the production of interactive videos.

“Through the community-based clinical education program and generous support from Delta Dental, our students have significantly expanded their experiences caring for some of the most vulnerable patients in California,” said Dr. Paul Krebsbach, Dean of UCLA School of Dentistry, which established the community-based clinical education program in 2018 with a $ 1.5 million Delta Dental grant. “The MINDFUL project is a natural and vital extension of this partnership, with the aim of bringing about lasting change in oral health among residents of long-term care facilities.”

Using the cost compensation model developed under Associate Dean Bill Piskorowski for the community-based clinical education program, MINDFUL is designed to be self-sufficient, covering staff salaries, required technology, and student travel expenses. The MINDFUL project will also help clinics and community organizations offering oral health services for geriatric and special needs populations to improve operational efficiency, provide continuing education and serve as a pipeline and opportunities for graduates to work in healthcare settings. public health.

While it is estimated that approximately 6,500 patients will be cared for over the three-year lifecycle of MINDFUL funding, the ultimate goal of the project is to develop a sustainable and ever-growing pathway to significantly increase the number of care providers. competent oral health care providers willing to provide care for elderly and special patient populations in any setting through education, clinical experience and the dissemination of research and knowledge.

“Through this project, we gain the unique opportunity to learn and share much-needed research to better understand the relationship between oral health and well-being, as well as barriers to care, to improve care delivery for older and more affected populations. special needs, particularly in non-traditional settings of dental service delivery such as long-term care facilities, ”said Nguyen.

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