San Jose, CA – Western Dental & Orthodontics, the state’s leading dental provider caring for more than 1 million Californians each year, partnered with the Healthier Kids Foundation this past weekend to expand hours at its Western Dental Kids San Jose office and provide high-quality, comprehensive dental services to underserved children. The patients, most of whom were Medi-Cal enrollees or uninsured patients, have struggled to be seen by dental providers, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, often waiting as long as three months to be seen by a licensed provider who accepts their insurance or offers payment options.
The event took place on Sunday, January 23rd, at the Western Dental Kids Office at 1153 South King Road, Suite B, in San Jose. Dental practices are generally closed on Sundays, but Western Dental Kids clinicians opened the doors and volunteered their time to local children so that they could receive critical follow-up dental care in a safe, hygienic setting and avoid more serious dental health issues later in life.
Figure 1: Western Dental clinician talking to a young patient
“We’re very happy that we were able to provide Western Dental’s high-quality oral healthcare services to children in need,” said Edwin Rivera, Vice President of Community Engagement and Strategic Alliances at Western Dental & Orthodontics. “As the largest Medi-Cal dental provider operating in one of the most culturally diverse regions in the country, expanding access to oral healthcare is at the heart of what we do. Partnering with the Healthier Kids Foundation fit naturally into our work to make oral healthcare accessible for historically underserved communities.”
Patients were identified by the Healthier Kids Foundation through their DentalFirst program, which screens children 6 months to 18 years old for undetected dental issues and helps them access follow-up care by partnering with local licensed dental providers. According to the Foundation, an estimated 42% of the children screened are referred to dental providers. Meeting this need is especially critical – because children with untreated dental needs are twice as likely to be chronically absent from school (3.5 weeks or more a school year). This weekend’s event aimed to address that disparity, keep students in school, and allow parents to continue working without interruption.
“Many parents don’t realize that undetected dental problems can impact children’s overall health and not just their oral health,” said Kathleen King, Chief Executive Officer of Healthier Kids Foundation. “Oral health issues that go unnoticed in children can lead to health issues later on, as well as to difficulty with learning and social development. This is just one reason our work with Western Dental is so important in helping underserved or at-risk youth overcome barriers to access to care.”
Western Dental Chief Dental Officer Dr. John Luther expanded on the King’s point about learning and social development issues that children face when their oral healthcare is neglected.
“Our partnership with the Healthier Kids Foundation underscores an important point: that oral healthcare is an important part of whole-body care, meaning that oral health problems can lead to physical and behavioral health problems – including chronic absenteeism and other educational challenges – later on in life.”
Figure 2: A Western Dental dentist administers an oral X-Ray
“This program is so very helpful to our children in Santa Clara County,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who represents the district where the event took place. “For those kids who are not getting care, the problems just get worse. This program can help turn that around.”
Western Dental Kids is comprised of a specific subset of Western Dental offices specializing in the comprehensive care of children and teenagers, ensuring that pediatric patients receive targeted care. Western Dental Kids offices, much like their Western Dental counterparts, are full-service “Dental Homes,” meaning the entire scope of patient needs, including general dentistry, orthodontics and oral surgery, can be coordinated and provided under one roof.
ABOUT HEALTHIER KIDS FOUNDATION
Healthier Kids Foundation is a family forward health agency that gives children and those who love them the education and cutting-edge tools they rightfully deserve to live a healthy life. At Healthier Kids Foundation, we believe preventative care at an early age makes things fair. For more information, please visit us online at www.hkidsf.org
ABOUT WESTERN DENTAL
Founded with the purpose of making oral healthcare accessible for all, Western Dental (with its supported affiliates, including Brident Dental & Orthodontics and Vital Smiles) has been expanding access and equity of oral healthcare for nearly 120 years. Operating in the most connected system of oral healthcare in the nation, Western Dental serves 3 million patients annually across 354 offices in California, Texas, Arizona, Alabama and Nevada. A full-service “dental home,” Western Dental provides general dentistry, pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, implants and oral surgery in its offices, designed to provide consistent, high-quality care that meets the needs of its diverse patient population. To learn more about Western Dental or inquire about an office in your community, visit www.westerndental.com or call 1-800-6-DENTAL.