Bridging the Gap: Kids’ Community Dental Clinic Provides Essential Care for Low-Income Families

By Elbert Tom, MPH, DDS

UCLA dental student volunteers.

In response to an urgent need for accessible oral health care services for children from low-income working families, the Kids’ Community Dental Clinic (KCDC) has emerged as a critical resource, providing essential care and support.

For nearly 35 years, a children’s dental clinic in Burbank operated thanks to the generosity of the Sisters of Providence of St. Joseph Medical Center and its affiliates. However, the closure of the hospital’s dental clinic in 1997 left a significant void in the community, leaving many working parents struggling to find affordable and convenient dental care for their children.

Providing care under faculty supervision.

In 2002, after extensive planning and with dedicated local support, KCDC opened its doors within McKinley Elementary School to cater to children in need. Initially known as the Kids’ Community Clinic of Burbank, the organization was renamed in 2004 as Kids’ Community Dental Clinic. This change underscored its commitment to oral health care preventative services and treatment while extending its reach to children beyond the Burbank area.

Recognizing the holistic needs of their young patients and their parents, KCDC annually hosts a Parenting Outreach Day, which was held this year (2024) on May 4. KCDC, in conjunction with 20 UCLA dental students under my direction, provided dental care to uninsured and underinsured parents of the children who are patients at KCDC. This event enables care to adults who would not normally be treated at KCDC or elsewhere.

Providing the best possible care in a classroom setting.

The event successfully attended to the dental needs of 54 patients. Services ranged from dental check-ups, cleanings, and oral hygiene instruction to fillings and extractions. Parenting Outreach Day was made possible by the diligent efforts of KCDC doctors, dental assistants, clerical staff, and the invaluable participation of UCLA dental students. In addition, the Los Angeles County COVID unit was on-site, providing free COVID-19 vaccinations, healthcare information, and COVID kits, further enriching the outreach initiative. The local Kiwanis Club also lent its support by generously providing lunch for all clinic volunteers and patients.

Through initiative like these, KCDC embodies its commitment to community well-being and continues to bridge the gap in oral health care access for underserved families. By fostering partnerships, delivering comprehensive care, and broadening its impact through outreach endeavors, KCDC embodies the spirit of collective action in nurturing thriving communities, focusing on both children and parents.

Watch this video from 2017 about KCDC and its work:

Kids Community Dental Clinic

About the Author

Dr. Elbert Tom is Group Practice Director and Health Care Clinical Assistant Professor, UCLA School of Dentistry.

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