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ADA Statement Provides Comprehensive Overview of Community Dental Health Coordinator Pilot Program

Contact Information:

Rob Raible:  Telephone: 202-789-5166  Email: raibler@ada.org

CHICAGO—October 25, 2012—The American Dental Association (ADA) today released the fourth in a series of papers that examine the challenges of and solutions to bringing good oral health to millions of Americans who, for multiple reasons, lack access to regular dental care. Breaking Down Barriers to Oral Health for All Americans: The Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) examines the ADA pilot program to educate, train and deploy a new type of community health worker, one with a focus on patient education, disease prevention and patient navigation. As of October, the project has graduated 18 students, who are now working in such underserved areas as remote rural communities, inner cities and American Indian lands. Another 16 students are scheduled to complete the educational program this fall. 

“The Community Dental Health Coordinator model is designed to address barriers to oral health that go beyond poverty. People in inner cities, remote rural areas and Native American lands also face obstacles posed by education, language, culture, geography and other factors,” said ADA President Robert A. Faiella, DMD MMsc. “Community Dental Health Coordinators come from these same communities. They understand the problems and are uniquely equipped to provide solutions.”

The CDHC is primarily based on the community health worker, a public health model that has been extraordinarily successful in outreach, education and disease management. CDHCs bring the same focus to meeting people’s oral health needs, concentrating on disease prevention, patient education and helping people secure and keep appointments with dentists.

This paper examines the history and current status of the CDHC pilot project, including:

  • Its underlying concept;
  • The development of a comprehensive curriculum;
  • Recruiting students;
  • The roles of the participating organizations and institutions in the education and training process;
  • How the project is being evaluated; and
  • The results reportable at this stage in the project.

The ADA has devoted significant financial and human resources to making the CDHC a reality, because it believes in the model and the health care philosophy it embodies.

The ADA and state dental societies are working to encourage state governments, the higher education community and the charitable and private sectors to begin funding and operating CDHC programs. Doing so in sufficient numbers could effect marked improvement in the oral health of Americans who currently lack both adequate access to dental care and the knowledge that empowers people to take charge of their own oral health.

Future ADA papers will address such topics as disease prevention, oral health education and why patients do or do not utilize available services.

About the American Dental Association

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 157,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit www.ada.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA’s consumer website www.MouthHealthy.org.