Mending the Smiles of Those Who Need it Most

Mending the Smiles of Those Who Need it Most

A electronic medical records pilot project expands the reach of a volunteer dental clinic – with help from Verizon.

In California’s Northeast San Fernando Valley, hundreds of low-income families in need of dental care are getting help from the Dental Clinic at MEND — Meet Each Need with Dignity — a volunteer program that enlists dental professionals to provide free services ranging from preventive care to replacing missing teeth and treating major tooth decay before it leads to more serious health problems.

MEND’s clinic staff isn’t large enough to meet all the needs of their patients, so MEND teamed up with Verizon and the University of the Pacific to join Virtual Dental Home (VDH), an electronic dental records pilot project  that enables dental professionals in other cities to join MEND’s team of volunteers.

Through VDH, patient X-rays and records are uploaded to a secure database and evaluated by dentists off site, who develop individualized treatment plans for MEND’s patients. This has allowed MEND to expand their network of volunteers to more than 35 dentists and about 60 other dental professionals. MEND clinic manager Denise Sanchez said that VDH, along with the support staff funded by Verizon, helps makes both the volunteer and on-site staff more efficient. “The technology allows the doctors to pre-screen patients,” she said. “It frees up their time to conduct more procedures and fewer on-site examinations.”

Since Verizon entered the picture, the VDH has doubled the number of new patients they serve, to more than 200 so far.  “Before the grant, we would only register 15 patients per month,” said Sanchez. “A lot of work goes into one patient, and it can take from 6 months to a year to bring them back to good oral health. Now, we can see up to 30 patients a month. This is a huge deal.”

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