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Local Dental Hygiene Students Learn To Connect With Community

4/10/2018, 12:55 p.m. | Updated on 4/10/2018, 12:55 p.m.
The American Dental Association recently launched the Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) program at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights. ...
The American Dental Association recently launched the Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) program at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights. The program trains dental workers on how to connect with their community through case management and educational services which leads to a better dental experience for children and adults. Photo: Vivian D Nguyen

Local Dental Hygiene Students Learn To Connect With Community

BY KATHERINE NEWMAN

The American Dental Association recently launched the Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) program at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights. The program trains dental workers on how to connect with their community through case management and educational services which leads to a better dental experience for children and adults.

“The program essentially is a blend of the community health worker skill set with dental profession knowledge,” said Dr. Jane Grover, Director of the Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention, American Dental Association. “The opportunity is to have this skill set taught to dental professionals who know all of the dental world, the terminology, and the dental appointment protocols, but have less experience with the community health worker skill set.”

The CDHC curriculum will be folded into the current dental hygiene program at Prairie State College. Students will participate in the standard coursework and complete their community rotations as they always have, but now they will also have additional training in community mapping, in-depth motivational interviewing, cultural competence, and case management, according to Grover.

“Case management is a science that is well accepted and established in the medical world, less so in the dental world until now,” said Grover. “The folks that have gone through this program already, if they are from a community health center they have seen their broken appointment rates decrease, they have seen an increase in inter-collaborative care and inter-professional care.”

The community health worker skill set has been shown to be effective in many different settings and patients who work with CDHC’s are more likely to be prevention oriented and compliant with home care, according to Grover.

Prairie State College has already graduated 29 students as registered dental hygienists with CDHC certification, according to Grover.

“Prairie State College is kind of a beacon to some of the other local education institutions because they have a dental hygiene program and they have a remarkable dental hygiene faculty. They chose to adopt this curriculum because Dolores Ickis, who is the director of the CDHC program at Prairie State College, instantly recognized the opportunity this would give their students,” said Grover.

The CDHC certification is a way for Prairie State College and it’s dental hygiene students to be distinguished from other institutions and registered dental hygienists who are competing for employment, according to Grover.

There are18 schools in total across the country that have added the CDHC certification to the dental hygiene curriculum, according to Grover. She said there are 134 graduates already with another 220 in the educational pipeline through the United States.

“There are students and dental professionals that are wired to want to do something in the community. They want to have some greater involvement in the community in addition to seeing patients. They want to have a broader possibility for impact and promote oral health in the community,” said Grover.

For more information on the Prairie State College dental hygiene program visit www.prairiestate.edu.