A new telemedicine project will provide free dental care to more than 400 foster care students at 15 community locations across California. The project was created jointly by the California Dental Association (CDA) Foundation, University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, and the California HealthCare Foundation, with start-up funding from the Verizon Foundation.

The Virtual Dental Home project is designed to address the “access to care” crisis in California by connecting patients with critical dental services, according to an announcement about the program.

The 4-year pilot project will expand and improve access to dental services for people by giving participating dentists the technological capability to examine patients remotely with help from dental hygienists and dental assistants in the communities being served. After the remote examinations, dental hygienists and dental assistants will perform preventive and temporizing restorative treatment for the patient.

"This pilot project helps dentists improve the oral health of all Californians," said Lindsey Robinson, DDS, chair of the CDA Foundation board of directors. "Thanks to the generous grant from Verizon, we will be able to bring dentistry into underserved communities."

"This new care delivery model provides a much-needed community-based ‘virtual dental home’ for the state’s most vulnerable people, who will access dental services in their own communities as well as remove some of the barriers to receiving care in a traditional dental office setting," said project director Paul Glassman, DDS, professor of dental practice at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

Planning and start-up activities during the first year will include the development of necessary protocols, data collection and evaluation systems, and a field test at six community locations. Nine more community locations will be added during the second year. The viability of the project will be evaluated at the end of the fourth year.