The Nebraska DHHS Office of Oral Health and Dentistry (OOHD) recently received a four-year oral health workforce grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and is partnering with the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry, Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI) and local health departments to:
- Increase access to quality, age-appropriate dental care for older adults and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD); and
- Strengthen the dental workforce’s capacity and preparedness to provide high-quality oral health care to adults with IDD.
Funding will support the addition of two key positions at the MMI Caring for Champions Dental Clinic – a general dentist to help oversee advanced education general dentistry residents and dental students providing care to adults with IDD and a registered dental hygienist/community dental health coordinator to oversee dental hygiene students in the clinic and provide statewide patient referral coordination.
“These workforce additions will increase the number of patients the clinic can serve and expand access to care for the IDD population, while increasing the amount of training College of Dentistry students receive treating patients with IDD,” said Claire Koukol, DDS, director of the clinic.
The registered dental hygienist/community dental health coordinator and college faculty and staff will implement community outreach activities to ensure that MMI serves as a dental home for all patients with IDD, traditionally an underserved population.
The grant also supports a pilot project rotating dental and dental hygiene students to rural health departments to learn about dental public health services. Students will provide lifespan preventive dental services and limited dental care for older adults living in long-term care and assisted living facilities.
“The Nebraska HRSA Oral Health Workforce grant will greatly increase access to dental care for several underserved populations within our state, including IDD, rural residents and older adults, while increasing dental students’ outreach experiences,” said Charles F. Craft, DDS, the state dental director for the OOHD.
The grant also includes an initiative to further develop the oral health workforce at three rural local health departments by creating community dental disease prevention teams in state-designated dental health professional shortage areas.
The teams, composed of a public health registered dental hygienist and a community health worker, will be trained by the OOHD. Each local health department will receive a portable hygiene unit to allow them to provide preventive services in early childhood locations, elementary schools, and long-term care and assisted living facilities.
The College of Dentistry Department of Dental Hygiene will have a key role in this initiative.
Melonie Welsh, MMI director of community engagement, called the UNMC College of Dentistry “a vital partner in MMI’s commitment to challenge the tremendous challenges in oral health that individuals with IDD face.
“This grant provides vital resources to provide services while educating the next generation of providers,” she said.