USC University of Southern California

Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC

Dental Home Sweet Home

PDC cr Rinzi Ruiz Photography
Photo by Rinzi Ruiz Photography

The new Pediatric Dental Clinic at LAC+USC Medical Center strives to meet the needs of underserved foster care children.

BY BREANNE GRADY MCM ’10

It all started with a hidden population’s need: Many foster care children in Los Angeles County weren’t able to find dental care.

This spring, Ostrow, in partnership with the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) and the office of Los Angeles County First District Supervisor Hilda Solis have opened the Pediatric Dental Clinic (PDC) in the Village at LAC+USC Medical Center.

The idea for the PDC started with VIP’s Dr. Astrid Heger, who approached Dr. Roseann Mulligan MS ’87 in 2011 about this special population of children.

“For the longest time, foster children have had an unmet need for dental care. It is often the first or second most-cited need,” Mulligan said. “This lack of care is in part due to the frequent moves from family to family that foster children undergo, which does not allow the discovery and building of a relationship with a nearby dental office.”

By locating all health care services at one site — the Village at LAC+USC Medical Center — foster children will now have a place where they can receive dental care, integrated with their medical care, on a regular basis, Mulligan explained.

“The PDC’s ability to meet the oral health needs of foster children and especially to provide ongoing preventive care has been lacking for far too long for these at-risk children,” she added.

The PDC is part of an $18.4 million grant received by Ostrow in 2012 from First 5 LA to fund the Children’s Health and Maintenance Project (CHAMP) grant. The goal of the CHAMP grant is to reach an overall target population of 45,000 children.

“The initial construction funds for the PDC were also supplied by First 5 LA and granted to Dr. Heger to build a dental clinic that would care for 0-5 year olds,” Mulligan said. The PDC participates in the training of 10 Ostrow advanced pediatric dental residents, with the hopes that the experience will increase the resident’s desire to help underserved populations in the future.

“For the longest time, foster children have had an unmet need for dental care. It is often the first or second most-cited need.”

Roseann Mulligan MS ’87

Mulligan, who serves as Ostrow’s associate dean of community health programs and hospital affairs, has a personal goal to get oral health services to people that don’t have any other access. Whether it’s foster children, the developmentally disabled, geriatric patients or homeless vets (to name just a few discrete populations Ostrow serves), she believes that oral health care should be available to all.

“I think it’s important to your overall systemic well-being as well as your psychological outlook,” Mulligan said. “There are many populations where the lack of good oral health has a profound effect on individuals, the quality of their life, potentially their ability to get jobs, their ability to do well in school.”

Staffed by Ostrow pediatric dentistry faculty, the three-chair clinic had its soft opening in early February and has been providing up to 20 oral screenings a day for foster children who come to the Village at LAC+USC for their medical visits. In addition, the clinic provides toothbrushes and toothpaste, helps the children brush their teeth and educates the foster parents on the importance of oral health care.

Within the next few months, pre-doctoral dental students who have expressed an interest in caring for very young children will also be participating in the PDC experience.

Posted 04.15.2016