Through an agreement with First 5 LA the University's College of Dental Medicine will receive $3.1 million within the first 19 months of a five-year agreement, according to an university statement. The university anticipates it will receive about $8.4 million during five years.
With the funding, faculty and students from the College of Dental Medicine will be able to provide dental services to children ages five and under at four Pomona Unified School District campuses and to children living outside the school district with the assistance of the San Gabriel Valley Foundation for Dental Health which is based in La Puente.
"By age 1 we need to get a child into a dental home," said Timothy Martinez, College of Dental Medicine associated dean for community partnerships and access to care.
If children begin seeing a dentist early in their lives costly dental problems can be avoided, he said.
Through the four school-based facilities, the University's Patient Care Center, the University-based Center for Oral Health and the Foundation for Dental Health children will be able to receive dental care, preventative care and educational services.
Often children aren't seen by a dentist as infants because parents don't know their children should see one or because they don't know services are available, Martinez said.
"We're trying to change the demand for service not by the provider but by the consumer," Martinez said.
Services will be provided for free or at low cost. The state's Medi-Cal will also be accepted.
The program will also benefit the University's dental medicine students by preparing them to work with young children including infants.
In the past dentists were trained to begin seeing children when they reached the age of 3, which means some dentists aren't prepared to provide care to very young children, Martinez said.
That philosophy has changed.
"We are going to get that workforce mentality shifted," Martinez said.
Dental medicine students aren't the only ones who will be part of this program.
Nursing students, such as those preparing to become nurse practitioners and others, will be participating in the program so that they will be prepared to work with children and prepare parents to be vigilant about their children's oral health, Martinez said.
Pomona Unified administrators have already identified four locations where Western University will be able to set up facilities, said Mark Maine, the district's director of student well-being.
The locations are Mendoza Center, which used to be serve as school; the Village at Indian Hill; Alcott Elementary School; and Diamond Point Elementary.
"This is a very, very exciting opportunity for our children and families," Maine said. "At the same time this creates an opportunity for Western University students. "
If children come to school with dental problems that cause pain "that impacts their learning ability," Maine said.
Plans call for beginning to publicize the services by June and begin offering service in the fall, Martinez said.
Western University has been working with the San Gabriel Valley Foundation for Dental Health for more than a year, said Executive Director Kellie Newcombe(cq).
The foundation's facilities are located within the Hacienda-La Puente Adult School's campus and gives its dental assistant students a chance to work with patients and with Western University's students, she said.
That facility provides screenings to 8,500 children and teens a year.
With the First 5 LA grant Western University secured the facility is expected to see an additional 2,000 children ages 5 and under, she said.
First 5 LA was established in 1998 after California voters approved Proposition 10. Using Prop. 10 funds, which are dollars generated through a tobacco tax, First 5 LA provides funding for programs that will help Los Angeles County children ages 0 to 5 be "physically and emotionally healthy, ready to learn, and safe from harm," according to the First 5 LA website.
Reach Monica via email, follow her on Twitter @PomonaNow, or call her at 909-483-9336.