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Profile of a CDHC: Jenna Linden

During two short-term sabbaticals – one in Vermont and the other in Florida – Jenna Linden helped coordinate care for and provide oral health education to more than 2,800 people last year.

As a Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC), Ms. Linden addressed barriers to oral health by providing patient navigation for people who typically do not receive care for a variety of reasons—among them poverty, geography, language, culture, and a lack of understanding of oral hygiene and the importance of regular dental visits.

CDHCs work in inner cities, remote rural areas and Native American lands. Most grew up in these communities, allowing them to better understand the problems that affect access to dental care.

While working as a dental hygienist, Ms. Linden enrolled in the third class of the American Dental Association's CDHC pilot program, receiving her training through Rio Salado College and Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health.

"It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, because it provided me with additional tools to further expand the role I carry out as a public health dental hygienist within my community," she said.

The role of the CDHC is threefold: educating the community about the importance of dental health and healthy behaviors; providing limited preventive services, such as fluoride varnish and dental sealants; and connecting the community to dental teams that can provide more complex care. As of fall 2013, the American Dental Association's CDHC project has graduated 34 students who are now working in eight states: Wisconsin, Montana, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas, California, and Minnesota.

During her six-week sabbatical in Winooski, Vt., Ms. Linden helped about 1,300 people through a variety of programs designed to coordinate care with a non-profit private dental practice, Vermont Dental Care. In collaboration with the local school district's nurses and interpreters, she implemented a transportation program that brought students to the Vermont Dental Care. She also coordinated dental screenings at the local senior center, taught dental health at nursing home in-services, located untapped financial resources and promoted oral health awareness throughout the community.

Ms. Linden's second sabbatical was at Treasure Coast Community Center, which is a Federally Qualified Health Center in Vero Beach, Fla. During her five-week stint, she reached more than 1,500 community members by coordinating referrals for high-risk pediatric patients, integrating medical and dental staff efforts for early education and prevention of dental disease, and educating pregnant mothers at a women's care center. She also worked closely with the Redlands Christian Migrant Association Head Start Program to educate families and staff members about prevention and access to dental care.

"I feel so fortunate to be a part of the efforts to increase access to dental care by breaking down barriers and instilling healthy habits for a lifetime," Ms. Linden said.