ists, dental assistants, and a new member of the dental team known as the community dental health coordinator (CDHC).
The CDHC is located in various community locales (e.g., schools, Head Start programs, nursing homes, walk-in clinics) working under the remote supervision of a dentist. The CDHC focuses on health promotion and behavioral change including clinical duties such as risk assessment, education, and radiographic and photographic screening, when needed. Assuming an electronic dental record, the entire team may access this information to determine the level of care needed. In addition, the CDHC could place sealants and temporary restorations (in preparation for permanent restoration by a dentist).
The ADA has funded the development of a new curriculum to train the CDHC, consisting of a number of modules, many of which may be completed online (e.g., advocacy, communication, effective interviewing skills, teaching skills). The curriculum also includes dental skills modules (e.g., introduction to dentistry, screening, and classification) and a community-based internship. Potential sources of CDHCs include people who are already members of the local community. CDHCs must be high school graduates and may already be oral health professionals or acting as a general community health worker, providing assistance with health education, translation, and transportation.
As the CDHC model enters pilot testing, outcomes will need to be evaluated, such as how often patients follow through on referrals by the CDHC, improvements in untreated disease among CDHC patients, and increases in the number of patients seen in clinics by CDHCs. Other considerations include evaluation of the costs and benefits when using CDHCs as well as their patients’ satisfaction with their services.
The CDHC curriculum has been developed and funded, and the pilot projects are currently being tested. The ADA is looking to the CDHC to act as a community-based link to the dentist and to expand and increase the efficiency of the existing community health center infrastructure. The educational component of the CDHC will strive to elevate the public’s oral health literacy and help ensure oral health integration into total patient care.
Ruth Ballweg, M.P.A., PA-C
MEDEX Northwest, University of Washington
The DENTEX project in Alaska is a partnership between the Alaskan Native Tribal Health Consortium, MEDEX Northwest of the University of