Join ADAMember Log In




Oklahoma CDHCs receive white coats

First cohort completes pilot program training

Oklahoma City—Oct. 23 was a day of celebration at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center as five Community Dental Health Coordinator participants received their white coats in a special recognition ceremony.

Image: Cohort 1 participants from the ADA’s Community Dental Health Coordinator pilot program at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

CDHC participants: Cohort 1 participants from the ADA’s Community Dental Health Coordinator pilot program at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center include graduates (from left): Courtney Roberts,  Valliant, Okla.; Katherine Mathews, Madill, Okla.; Kimberley Cave, Fairfax, Okla.; Jessica Johnson, Clayton, Okla.; and Melissa Tyler, Battiest, Okla.

Courtney Roberts, Katherine Mathews, Kimberley Cave, Jessica Johnson and Melissa Tyler are among the first cohort of CDHCs to complete the ADA’s pilot program, following nearly 1,900 hours of instruction that included 12 months of online study, in-person clinical training and six-month internships.

The new CDHCs are now ready to bring dental education, prevention services and patient assistance to communities with inadequate access to oral health care and disproportionate oral disease rates.

“The ADA is proud of these participants, who we hope will be the vanguard of a new way—we believe a better way—of preventing disease in underserved communities, in large part by empowering people to take charge of their own oral health,” said ADA President Raymond F. Gist. “This type of community-based approach has worked well in other fields of health care. We believe we can improve people’s health and lives by preventing dental disease and raising awareness of the importance of good oral hygiene habits.”

The new CDHCs can also provide specific clinical services under the supervision of a dentist such as fluoride treatments and placement of dental sealants when allowed by existing state laws.

The participants are also trained to help patients navigate the health system and to connect patients with dentists by helping them overcome barriers to care such as lack of transportation or child care.

CDHCs are recruited from the same communities in which they are trained to serve, including remote rural areas, urban areas and Native American communities, thus eliminating many of the cultural, language and sociological barriers that might otherwise impede their effectiveness.

“I’ll help dentists by knowing the people of the community. They know me and trust me,” said Melissa Tyler. “I can go to schools, nursing homes or community centers to educate people. The more I can help someone, the better they’ll be.”

“The new CDHCs are excited about the roles that they will play in their communities,” said Marsha Beatty, co-director of the CDHC program at the University of Oklahoma. “They all worked hard to learn valuable skills that they can use to help improve the oral health of people who live in underserved communities. We couldn’t be more pleased by what they have accomplished, and we look forward to future success.”

CDHCs can be employed by federally qualified health centers, the Indian Health Service and tribal clinics, state or county public health clinics or private practice dental clinics in underserved areas.

Participants must complete 12 months of online course work, in-person clinical training and six-month internships, including instruction in topics such as human psychology, sociology and communications, biomedical sciences, dental sciences and clinical sciences. The CDHCs will incorporate their new skills in their current positions at the clinics with which they are affiliated.

Each pilot program is under the direction of a major university. Temple University in Pennsylvania is training participants to work in urban areas; the University of Oklahoma is training participants to work in rural communities; and the University of California at Los Angeles in conjunction with Salish Kootenai College in Montana is training participants to work in Native American communities. All of the educational institutions collaborate with Rio Salado College in Tempe, Ariz., to deliver the online and clinical components of the curriculum.

The ADA is funding the pilot program through 2012 and is seeking additional future funding from corporations, foundations and government. In September, Henry Schein Inc. committed nearly $860,000 in dental office equipment needed for the second and third cohort participants in pilot project training.

Currently, nine additional participants are enrolled in the CDHC program at the three pilot program sites, and recruitment is planned for a third cohort of participants that will begin their training in March 2011.

Please visit www.ada.org/cdhc.aspx to learn more about the ADA’s CDHC pilot program.