The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of California, today announced a $1.67 million grant to the UCLA School of Dentistry’s Community-Based Clinical Education Program. The grant, the Community Care Foundation’s largest ever, will be used to establish the UCLA Dentistry MINDFUL Project, which stands for mobile care in dentistry for underserved populations living in long-term care facilities, to address the urgent need for comprehensive oral health care and education among seniors and special needs populations.
This funding is part of Delta Dental’s multiyear commitment to improving the lives and well-being of older adults, especially those of color or living in poverty, or whose mobility issues prevent them from receiving oral health care.
The MINDFUL Project, which has the following objectives, will provide mobile care and give UCLA dental students opportunities to train in community-based public health settings.
A significant barrier to achieving good oral and overall health for these populations is the high demand and insufficient supply of providers who are willing and able to deliver comprehensive care. Serving long-term care facility residents aligns with one of Delta Dental’s top priorities, ensuring oral health care for older adults.
More than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. aged 65 and older have experienced periodontal disease and nearly 40% of nursing home residents have no teeth, underscoring a critical need to deliver adequate oral health care to the country’s growing geriatric population. Meanwhile, special needs populations often face wait times of longer than a year for appointments with dental clinicians trained to treat the complex health conditions they experience.
“We know through our decades of experience in the oral health care sector that older adults struggle with oral health problems and lack the support they need for proper dental care,” said Kenzie Ferguson, vice president of Foundation and corporate social responsibility for Delta Dental of California. “UCLA Dentistry’s MINDFUL Project will play an integral role in helping to address the oral health care shortfalls seniors experience. The project is fundamental to delivering on Delta Dental’s goals of promoting the connection between oral health and overall health, providing quality outcomes, improving access and creating greater equity in the treatment older adults receive.”
“Our goal over the next three years is to establish and fine tune a self-sustaining program that will provide an additional workforce for communities in need,” said Dr. Lisa Nguyen, program director of MINDFUL and associate director for the community-based clinical education program. “We strive to enhance our students’ confidence in treating these target populations and increase the likelihood that they will continue to serve geriatric and special needs populations after graduation. We are so grateful for Delta Dental’s philanthropic support of this program.”
Through the MINDFUL Project, UCLA School of Dentistry will establish new partnerships with community organizations throughout Southern California that deliver dental care utilizing mobile equipment. The school will also bring together dental, nursing and long-term care facility staff members to collaborate to improve processes and outcomes. This includes implementing the California Department of Public Health’s oral health toolkit and producing interactive videos.
“Through the community-based clinical education program and the generous support of Delta Dental, our students have significantly broadened their experiences caring for some of the most vulnerable patients in California,” said Dr. Paul Krebsbach, dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry, which established the community-based clinical education program in 2018 thanks to a $1.5M Delta Dental grant. “The MINDFUL Project is a natural and vital extension of this partnership, aiming to enact lasting oral health change among long-term care facility residents.”
While an estimated 6,500 patients will be cared for over MINDFUL’s three-year funding lifecycle, the project’s ultimate goal is to develop a sustainable and ever-growing pathway to significantly increase the number of competent oral health care providers willing to deliver care for older adult and special patient populations in any setting through education, clinical experience and dissemination of research and knowledge.
About Delta Dental Community Care Foundation
The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of California and its affiliated companies including Delta Dental Insurance Company, Delta Dental of Pennsylvania and Delta Dental of New York, Inc. Since 2011, the Foundation has awarded more than $100 million in funding and support to increase access to quality dental care, oral health education and to advance scientific research across the company’s 15-state service area and the District of Columbia. For more information about the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation, please visit https://www1.deltadentalins.com/foundation.html.
About UCLA School of Dentistry
The UCLA School of Dentistry is dedicated to improving the oral health of the people of California, the nation and the world through its teaching, research, patient care and public service initiatives. The School provides education and training programs that develop leaders in dental education, research, the profession and the community; conducts research programs that generate new knowledge, promote oral health and investigate the cause, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral disease in an individualized disease-prevention and management model; and delivers patient-centered oral health care to the community and the state.