e-mail Print Share

Florida Dental Coalition Treats Needy Through Public, Private Partnerships

June 1, 2015 

An access-to-care coalition led by Florida dentists is addressing the diverse needs of its county’s most at-risk citizens through a number of public and private partnerships. 

The coalition was created in the wake of a widely reported county commission vote to take fluoridation out of the public water systems in 2011. Dentists throughout the county fought to reinstate fluoridation and succeeded the following year when the commission reversed its decision. 

"At that time we started to ask representatives from a number of private and public organizations to come together and look at ways we could best address the access-to-care issues in our community,” said Dr. Susan Hudak Boss, current president of the Pinellas County Dental Association (PCDA). “One of the things that worked in our favor was that the new board of county commissioners was in favor of fluoridation, so we knew we had support from leaders of our local government.”

By 2012, the PCDA developed partnerships with local non-profit organizations to provide dental care to the underserved citizens of the county. These partners now connect needy citizens with PCDA volunteer dentists at the local dental assisting college, homeless shelters with dental clinics, local non-profit dental clinics, several Pinellas County Health Department dental clinics, two Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), and a dental residency clinic at the University of Florida College of Dentistry in Seminole. 

The coalition is supported by the local school health advisory committee, the local juvenile welfare board and the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners.  The abundance of support and enthusiasm for providing care to the underserved has enabled the coalition to create a dental team that delivers a sealant program by mobile units to 18 area schools.

“We’ve accomplished so much during the past couple of years,” said Dr. Amy Anderson, past president of the PCDA who was instrumental in putting together the coalition. “We have the staffing and we have the facilities. Now we’re in the process informing those in need of where they can go to receive dental treatment.”

Area dentists are also in the preliminary stages of developing a county-wide emergency room referral program. This program would give the local emergency medical service personnel, first responders, emergency room nurses and physicians the information they need to refer people who show up at area hospitals with non-emergency concerns to the facilities where dentists can best treat them. 

“We’ve had a number of discussions and we have dentists who are willing to participate in the program,” said Dr. Hudak Boss.  “Right now we’re trying to determine the best way of directing patients from the emergency rooms to our available facilities.”

The coalition also rolled out a public service announcement campaign titled “Oral Health – It Matters,” which is aimed at educating the community about the importance of oral health and the dental resources available through the public and private safety net. Another goal of the campaign is to increase the association’s membership, which supports volunteer efforts.

“It has been amazing how it all came together,” said Dr. Anderson.  “We’re proud of our efforts and accomplishments.”