networks, using customized computer and other medical equipment to connect sick children in child care centers and schools with their physicians to facilitate virtual sick visits. Researchers tapped into this infrastructure to conduct a pilot program, where digital photographs of childrens' mouths were taken by Health-e-Access assistants. These digital files were then electronically delivered to Eastman Dental Center, where they were reviewed by pediatric dentists.
The pilot project proved two important things. First, the on-site health assistant at the child care center could be trained to take accurate photos of teeth, and second, the images were clear enough to diagnose ECC. In fact, the photos were better than "clear enough."
"The quality of the images was such that we could spot decay that was not visible to the human eye," Kopycka-Kedzierawski said. "And, we could use the photos to help educate the parents about the disease, and in some cases, gently prod them into seeking the care of a dentist."
These results helped pave the wave for the larger screening program, the subject of the article published in Journal of Telemedicine & Telecare. In total, 162 children from 1 to 5 years old in six Rochester inner-city child care centers were screened, with almost 40 percent shown to have ECC. Once identified, parents received a letter alerting them to their child's oral disease, and were provided with a referral so the problem could be treated.
Three months later, all children were rescreened to determine how many actually had actually seen a dentist to correct the problem. About 25 percent of children did receive dental services, though the sample size in this study is too small to make generalized conclusions. Now, researchers are focused on finding grants to help support follow-up efforts so that all toddlers identified with ECC will receive the much needed dental care.
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