Teledentistry Program Helped Increase Kids' Dental Treatment Rates

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Children of migrant farm workers who enrolled in a telehealth-based dental program -- also known as a teledentistry program -- were significantly more likely to receive treatment for early childhood caries, according to a study presented at the American Telemedicine Association's annual meeting, Medscape reports.

Early childhood caries are a type of tooth decay.

How the Program Worked

The teledentistry program -- led by Finger Lakes Community Health in New York -- received funding support from USDA and the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

As part of the program, a dental hygienist provided consultations at Head Start centers in the Finger Lakes region of New York. During the consultations, the hygienist would:

  • Take a video of the children's teeth using an intraoral camera;
  • Apply fluoride varnish; and
  • Distribute information on dental hygiene.

The hygienist then would send the video to a pediatric dentist, who would use the video and behavioral information on the child to plan an in-office visit.

Program Outcomes

Between April 2010 and April 2012, the teledentistry program provided 102 pediatric dental consultations.

Researchers found that the percentage of children who received treatment for early childhood caries increased from 15% to 95% after the implementation of the program.

Terry Yonker -- telemedicine clinical coordinator at Finger Lakes Community Health -- said that because parents did not have to travel for the initial, telehealth-based consultations, they were more likely to travel for the follow-up appointment in which children received treatment (Harrison, Medscape, 5/2).


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