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Prairie State College Offers Community Dental Health Coordinator Program

October 23, 2015

A community college in Illinois is offering a certificate program that trains dental hygiene students to work in underserved communities and connect the people who live there with dentists.

Classes for Prairie State College's Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) program began this fall in conjunction with the school's two-year dental hygiene program. Thirty-three students currently are enrolled. When they graduate, the students will earn a CDHC certificate and an associate degree in dental hygiene from the college, which is based in Chicago Heights.

CDHCs are community health workers who provide oral health education and disease prevention, and who help people navigate the public health system to receive care from dentists. Other schools offering the CDHC course include Mattia College in Miami; Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque; and Rio Salado College in Tempe, Ariz.

“As we’ve seen in communities across the country, CDHCs are a viable part of the solution to improve access to dental care for people who suffer disproportionately from dental disease,” said ADA President Dr. Maxine Feinberg. “We are excited that these future CDHCs will be able to bridge the barriers to care in Illinois.”

The initial ADA CDHC pilot project graduated 34 CDHCs. Pilot project graduates have brought their skills to such underserved communities as inner cities, remote rural areas and Native American communities in more than eight states. Their community health worker skills enable CDHCs to effectively coordinate care for people who already suffer from chronic health problems.

“The CDHC program opens up a number of job possibilities for the dental hygiene students at Prairie State College,” said Illinois State Dental Society Executive Director Greg Johnson. “At the same time, more Illinoisans will be able to enjoy the good oral health that they deserve."