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Community Dental Health Coordinator program begins in Miami

July 22, 2015

By Michelle Manchir

Miami – A Florida college is the second higher education institution to implement the ADA's Community Dental Health Coordinator program, which will help more underserved patients understand the importance of oral health.

The Community Dental Health Coordinator program began July 20 at Mattia College. Qualified dental professionals, including registered dental hygienists or expanded functions dental assistants are sought for the training, with support from the ADA and the Florida Dental Association. Students will learn community health worker skills before conducting internships and outreach activities under the supervision of local dentists.

CDHCs help dentists by educating communities on the importance of oral health "in a culturally sensitive and competent way, reaching out to the most vulnerable communities," said Ricardo Mualin, vice president of operations for the college's school of dental sciences. "This new member of the dental team will act as a catalyst for better dental health and increased access through dentists and dental offices, therefore improving the overall oral health of their communities."

These coordinators can help people bridge such barriers as poverty, geography, language, culture and a lack of understanding of oral hygiene.

"Many of the CDHCs come from these same communities themselves, including minorities from different races and nationalities," said Mr. Mualin.

Five to seven students are expected to be in the school's first cohort. Mr. Mualin said the certificate program complements the school's existing nonprofit dental clinic and other dental programs.

ADA's pilot project, initiated in 2006, has graduated 34 CDHCs. Graduates have brought their skills to such underserved communities as inner cities, remote rural areas and Native American communities in more than eight states. Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque was the first college to offer the certificate program following the pilot project.

"We're delighted to see a CDHC program opening in Florida," said ADA President Maxine Feinberg. "Community colleges across the country are recognizing this curriculum as both a great career path for students and new way to help their communities."

The ADA is working to help schools in Illinois, Virginia, California and other states integrate the model into their curriculums.

For more on the program, please contact Mattia College's Continuing Education Department at 1-305-220-4120, ext. 2409.