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An Innovative Project Breaks Down Barriers to Oral Health Care for Vulnerable Young Children in Los Angeles County

June 29, 2016

Policy Brief

Authors: James J. Crall, DDS, ScD, Jaqueline Illum, Ana E. Martinez, MPH, Nadereh Pourat, PhD

​​Despite the high rate of untreated tooth decay, many young children in California under six years of age have never been to a dentist. Numerous and complex barriers to access of oral health care for young children exist, and a multifaceted approach is required to improve receipt of preventive and treatment services that could improve the oral health of this population. 

This policy brief describes the UCLA-First 5 LA 21st Century Dental Homes Project, which was designed to improve oral health care for young children in 12 Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) clinic sites with co-located dental and primary care services and its accessibility in their service areas throughout Los Angeles County. The project funded infrastructure and staffing, provided technical assistance to improve operations, trained clinical personnel to provide oral health care to young children, implemented a quality improvement learning collaborative, trained parents and child care providers in oral hygiene and healthy habits, and disseminated information to promote effective policies. 

Early data on the project indicated twofold increases in delivery of both diagnostics and treatment for young children, and a threefold increase in preventive services for young children during the program.

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