A child at Magnolia Head Start Preschool in East Palo Alto receiving dental care through the Virtual Dental Home system.

Jon Draper photo

Napans with disabilities will soon be able to take advantage of “teledentistry” technology in their own residential facilities, enabling them to receive much needed dental care without leaving home.

The Pacific Center for Special Care at University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry has received a $400,000 grant from the North Bay Regional Center (NBRC).

The funding will support the use of the Pacific Center’s “Virtual Dental Home” system throughout Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties to provide diagnostic services, and prevention and early intervention care for people with complex developmental, medical and physical conditions, said a news release.

“Our hope is to significantly reduce the number of people with developmental disabilities in the North Bay who need to have dental procedures performed using sedation and general anesthesia,” said Dr. Paul Glassman, director of the Pacific Center for Special Care.

“Emphasizing preventive procedures in residential and community settings will improve the health of the individuals served in this system, lower financial and other costs, and support people living in community settings.”

According to the American Dental Association, teledentistry is similar to visiting a bricks and mortar dental office, only the dentist may be on a computer screen instead of in person.

Or the treating dentist could have emailed their patient care instructions to a specialist or dental hygienist at a community dental care event.

Dentists could also virtually supervise the oral health care of nursing home patients, residents in rural areas or others who don’t have access to a dentist in their area.

A new model for delivering dental care using teledentistry technology, the Virtual Dental Home system connects a dentist in the dental office with licensed allied dental professionals working with underserved populations.

People receive preventative and simple therapeutic services in home or community settings. The system brings much-needed services to individuals who might otherwise receive no care.

Individuals served by the Regional Center have conditions such as intellectual disabilities, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and autism.

In Napa, those individuals are living in groups homes scattered throughout the county. These homes typically provide residential facilities for four to six people.

In a six-year pilot program, the Pacific Center has implemented the Virtual Dental Home system in 50 California Head Start preschools, elementary schools, community centers, residential care facilities for people with disabilities, senior centers and nursing homes.

The NBRC is one of 21 regional centers for people with developmental disabilities in California.

Regional centers are nonprofit private corporations that contract with the California Department of Developmental Services to provide or coordinate services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities.