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CDHC who started nonprofit recognized with research award

June 06, 2018

By Michelle Manchir

Photo of MiQuel McRae
Ms. McRae
Tucson, Ariz. — Most dentists would find it unusual to see an abscess a day in their patient population.

For MiQuel McRae, a Community Dental Health Coordinator, it's endemic to the population she serves, a population that she profiled in the Third Annual El Rio Research Fair in May. There, Ms. McRae received the Carlos A. Flores, M.D. Create Tomorrow Award, which is named in honor of Dr. Flores, a late El Rio board member and pediatrician and neonatologist.

Her recognition stems in part from her completion of the ADA-developed and trademarked CDHC program. A registered dental hygienist, Ms. McRae in 2015 completed CDHC certification at Rio Salado Community College in Tempe, Arizona. Her poster was one of 49 presented at the research fair, which was sponsored by the El Rio Community Health Center, the A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine and the Wright Center.

The award recognizes projects that demonstrate impact on improved health outcomes or contribute to new knowledge of improved practices or policies that support health centers, according to the research fair's pamphlet.

Ms. McRae said the recognition was gratifying.

"I understand the work we do has value and our staff understands, but to be recognized with such a high honor in the world of public health was the boost we needed to keep going," she told the ADA News. "It's nice to be recognized for your hard work because that doesn't always happen on a day-to-day basis."

Ms. McRae's poster displayed some general information about the students she and other volunteer hygienists have served through her nonprofit in two counties in Arizona that are designated health professional shortage areas. Tooth B.U.D.D.S., which was conceived as Ms. McRae's final community-based project for the Community Dental Health Coordinator program, involves hygienists providing preventive dental services in Title 1 elementary schools, or schools with high percentages of low income students, while using mobile equipment and in conjunction with an affiliated dentist.

Depending on their needs, children receive hygiene education, toothbrush kits, screenings, fluoride varnish application or other services. Children are only treated if their parents or guardians return a consent form.

Ms. McRae said her program, since its launch about a year ago, has provided more than 600 children with dental hygiene services and more than 1,200 received oral hygiene instruction and tooth brush supplies. Ms. McRae regularly utilizes teledentistry to communicate with a local dentist, sending radiographs for review and seeking referral for definitive treatment to establish a dental home when needed.

According to her poster, 100 percent of the children she saw at one school showed symptoms of dental decay. At another school, 20 percent of the children had never seen a dentist.

"We see at least one child a day with an active abscess that needs immediate attention," she said. "The reward comes when the child reports back that her/his tooth doesn't hurt anymore because they went to a dentist for continued treatment. Agriculture is a huge part of the economy in our area. We have seen dozens of children from migrant working families working on these farms who have never seen a dentist before. For many of these children, we are giving them their first toothbrush."

Ms. McRae sees Tooth B.U.D.D.S. as easily replicated in other communities, which is a principal component of the award that Ms. McRae won.

"What we are doing could be done by anyone. I attribute the confidence I had to venture out to the Community Dental Health Coordinator Program. I never would have stepped outside of my comfort zone had I not gone through the program," she said.
The Community Dental Health Coordinator program is a curriculum that emphasizes community-based prevention, care coordination and patient navigation to connect underserved patients with a dental home. Community Dental Health Coordinators are often, though not always, dental assistants or hygienists who earn the CDHC certification at higher education institutions to work within a state dental practice act at a dental office.

The program, which takes about a year to complete and includes an internship or community demonstration project, aims to help bring dental care to patients in rural, urban and Native American communities by acting as an ambassador in the dental office who will help them arrange and keep appointments and understand the care they need.

Currently, 18 higher education institutions throughout the country offer the program or are preparing to offer it, often with the option of completing it online.

For more information about the CDHC program and where it is offered, visit

For more information about Tooth B.U.D.D.S., send an email to