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Federally qualified health centers focus on sealants' importance at ADA Headquarters

January 30, 2019

By David Burger

Photo of Ms. Lampron
Opening up: Colleen Lampron, director of the National Network for Oral Health Access Sealants Improvement Collaborative, leads off the network's learning session with a discussion on why sharing information is key to improvement at ADA Headquarters Jan. 24.
Kevin Little, Ph.D., had a simple message for his audience.

"My favorite word in learning session two is implement — not test," said the National Network for Oral Health Access improvement advisor as he led off the second session of NNOHA's Sealants Improvement Collaborative at ADA Headquarters, held Jan. 24-25.

The collaborative, hosted by the Dental Quality Alliance and funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was focused on further teaching dental teams from federally qualified health centers the importance of sealants in young patients and sharing data and experiences on best practices to increase sealant rates.

Implementation of the right systems is the logical next step, organizers said.

This series collaborative ultimately improves dental care delivery for young patients at federally qualified health centers, said Colleen Lampron, director of the National Network for Oral Health Access, Sealants Improvement Collaborative.

With 35 federally qualified health centers from 20 states represented, the 91 attendees learned the fundamentals of quality improvement and the evidence base for preventing and managing caries, including the use of sealants, along with strategies to increase sealant rates — such as ways to implement same-day sealants.

The percentage of children age 6-9 years of age at elevated caries risk, who received a dental sealant on a first permanent molar at health centers is about 50 percent, said Rachel Johnston, NNOHA program manager. Dental sealants are the most effective
preventive service dental teams can provide for the most caries-prone teeth, she said

Dr. Anthony Mendicino, dental director of New York's Finger Lakes Community Health, attended the collaborative with his dental team. Through a storyboard presentation, he and dental hygienist Laurie Turner, the school-based dental program director, reported on the progress they have made in educating and preventing caries with sealants. Many patients, especially children, can be apprehensive of the dentist, Dr. Mendicino said, so the key was "enhancing the trust" between the patient and provider.

Education of caries and sealants in patients helps the center "empower" their patients, Ms. Turner said, to improve their oral health for the rest of their lives. "It's best to start early," she said.

Photo of Dr. Mendocino
Quality improvement: Dr. Anthony Mendicino, dental director of Finger Lakes Community Health in New York, addresses the attendees of the National Network for Oral Health Access' learning session Jan. 24 at ADA Headquarters in front of storyboards that detail his center's work in sealants system improvement.
During lunch on the second day of the collaborative, ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention district representatives met with the health centers in their districts who are participating in the NNOHA Sealants Improvement Collaborative. Council member Dr. Irene Hilton is chair of the NNOHA Sealants Improvement Collaborative.

The work of federally qualified health centers in providing primary care in underserved areas is vital, Ms. Johnston said, and Improvement Collaborative participants have developed work flows and best practices that other providers can learn from. "These health centers are pioneers," Ms. Johnston said.

The attendees will reconvene for the third session of this current collaborative in June at ADA Headquarters to assess the results of the implementation of quality improvement methods at their centers.

The National Network for Oral Health Access was founded in 1991 by a group of dental directors from federally qualified community health centers who identified a need for peer-to-peer networking, collaboration, research and support in running effective oral health programs, according to its website.

The DQA was established by the ADA to develop performance measures for oral health care. The DQA is an organization of major stakeholders in oral health care delivery that uses a collaborative approach to develop oral health care measures, according to its website. The mission of the DQA is to advance performance measurement as a means to improve oral health, patient care and safety through a consensus-building process.

For more information on the work of the National Network for Oral Health Access, visit nnoha.org.