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Classes Starting for Virginia’s First Community Dental Health Coordinator Program

Students are enrolling in Virginia’s First Community Dental Health Coordinator Program preparing them for jobs in the growing dental care profession.

The statewide program is sponsored by the Virginia Dental Association and the Piedmont Virginia Dental Health Foundation and will be taught by Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville.  The program is open to students throughout Virginia.

A Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) is a professional team member whose focus is prevention of dental disease with an emphasis on community health worker skills.  “The goal is to educate families about the importance of oral health and navigate underserved patients to dental care,” said Dr. Richard Taliaferro, president of the Virginia Dental Association.  “CDHCs will be able to find employment in safety net clinics and in private dental practices.”

Classes begin March 21.  The program includes 12 months of online instruction, participation in a clinic one weekend a month in Martinsville, and a six-month internship in an approved safety net clinic.  A student completing this program will hold a CDHC Certificate and will be prepared to take the examination for Dental Radiation Certificate.

For more information about the program, call 276 656-0260 or email  The Harvest Foundation of Martinsville and the Piedmont Virginia Dental Health Foundation are providing funds to launch the program.

“In 2006, the American Dental Association began a project to train a new type of community health worker,” said Dr. Mark Crabtree of Martinsville, past chairman of the American Dental Association’s s Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations.  “The goal is to break down barriers that keep many Americans from enjoying good dental health so that as many people as possible have access to dental health care.”

The Virginia Dental Association participated in a demonstration project with the Eastern Shore Rural Health System.  “The project showed that a CDHC could bridge patient barriers such as language, transportation, education, poverty, geography and culture to help connect patients to much-needed care and ultimately improve the quality of life for the community,” said Dr. Terry Dickinson, executive director of the Association.

Nancy Stern, CEO of the Eastern Shore Rural Health System, said the demonstration project proved so valuable that the organization plans to hire a CDHC.  “The importance of CHDCs is that they will reach out to at-risk populations and assure access to dental care,” she said.  “CHDCs also will educate our most vulnerable population about the importance of receiving dental care.”

          The program is designed to train CDHCs to:

  • Work in clinics, schools, private practices and public health settings,
  • Collect information to assist dentists in triaging patients,
  • Address social, environmental and health literacy issues,
  • Provide dental health education and help people develop goals to enhance their     oral health,
  • Coordinate care in accordance with a dentist’s instructions,
  • Help patients navigate the complexities of the health system,
  • Provide limited clinical services, including:
  1. Screenings
  2. Fluoride treatments
  3. Placement of sealants
  4. X-rays

The CDHC curriculum includes:

  • Introduction to Dentistry
  • Screening and Classification
  • Prevention of Dental Cavities
  • Prevention of Oral Cancer
  • Financing and Payment for Dental Care
  • Advocacy and Outreach
  • Communication and Cultural Competency
  • Interviewing Skills
  • Legal and Ethical Issues
  • Training at a Community Health Clinic