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Two Teledentistry Models: Rural School Oral Health Services
Two Teledentistry Models: Rural School Oral Health Services

Full Title: Two Teledentistry Models for the Provision of Essential Oral Health Care Services in Rural School Settings

Authors: Marcia M. Ward, PhD; Divya Bhagianadh, MPH, PhD; Fred Ullrich, Kimberly A.S. Merchant, MA; Christopher L. Meyer, Sarah Wovcha, JD, MPH; Erianna Reyelt

JDH Issue: December 2022

Program Track: Research

Abstract: Purpose: Access to adequate dental services is limited for children in rural communities in the United States. The purpose of this paper was to describe how two school-based teledentistry programs increased access to oral health services for children and adolescents living in rural areas. Methods: The School-Based Telehealth Network Grant Program (SB TNGP) was designed to expand access to, and improve the quality of health care services in schools through telehealth. Data were collected from July 1 to December 31, 2019 on 164 students at 7 preschool sites by Marshfield Clinic Health System (MCHS) and on 1,467 students at 57 school sites by Children’s Dental Services (CDS). Results: Both MCHS and CDS reported that over 99 percent of encounters were successfully completed using telehealth technology. Both grantees reported that 99.4 percent of students received an oral health evaluation/screening, primarily through a dental hygienist traveling to the school site connected to a dentist or advanced dental therapist through telehealth. One half of the students had dental caries (50.6 % MCHS; 48.6% CDS). Both grantees referred all students with dental caries for oral health follow-up care. Conclusions: By utilizing dental hygienists traveling to school sites and connecting with centrally located dental professionals through telehealth, both grantees increased access to needed oral health care services for rural children. Oral health screening in school settings using dental hygienists with teledentistry can provide an efficient way to identify students at high risk for dental caries and offer a valuable strategy for oral disease prevention and control.

Learning Objectives:

  • Discuss the impact of untreated dental caries in children.
  • Describe the methods, results, and conclusion of this article.
  • Explain the advantages of using teledentistry in rural areas.

CE Credit Hours: 2.0

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