The University of Detroit Mercy/Henry Ford Health System School Based Program: Increasing Oral Health Services for Children

Shepherd, Kathi, Mert Aksu, Vinod Miriyala, and Gail Stewart

In Spring 2008 a partnership between the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) School of Dentistry, Henry Ford Health System and the State of Michigan Department of Community Health designed a program for children identified as having high disease rates and lack access to dental care enrolled in seven city of Detroit public elementary schools. The objectives were to: 1) increase oral health prevention services; 2) ensure restoration of active disease for children; and 3) reduce disparities through the provision of a dental sealant program. The program is facilitated on site by a Community Oral Health Coordinator employed by Henry Ford Health System. Three licensed PA 161 dental hygienists were hired with University of Detroit Mercy faculty status to provide preventive oral health care in the seven designated elementary schools. After being calibrated by the Department of Pediatric Dentistry faculty, the team of dental hygienists perform a screening, prophylaxis, sealants and fluoride varnish on each child upon obtaining parental consent. Pre and post oral health education tests are administered to assess acquisition of knowledge utilizing chair side laptop computers. Children are referred to the UDM School of Dentistry for restorative and other necessary care utilizing a SEALS classification system. Assurance of appointment attendance is tracked by way of a web based axiUm crystal reporting mechanism. To date over a thousand children have been treated by the team of dental hygienists. Ten percent of the children have had appointments at the School of Dentistry. Phase one student involvement has occurred through a formal observation requirement. Although continued program evaluation is currently being conducted, initial results after eleven months reveal an increase in the amount of oral health services provided for the designated population. The program thus far has provided an avenue for the dental hygiene faculty to work with families and agencies to raise awareness of the importance of oral health. Due to the low number of restorative appointments made at the School of Dentistry, the possibility of both dental and dental hygiene students rendering care with faculty supervision on site in the schools is being investigated.