Massachusetts returns to original calling with PHDH careers
by Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH
Dr. Alfred Fones founded dental hygiene in 1923 with the instruction that the primary work of the dental hygienist be public education. He noted that the hygienist "must regard herself as the channel through which dentistry's knowledge of mouth hygiene is to be disseminated.
The greatest service she can perform is the persistent education of the public in mouth hygiene and the allied branches of general hygiene." He empowered his cousin and assistant, Irene Newman, to educate and treat children in his dental practice to achieve optimum oral health.
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Over the years, the role of the hygienist has expanded and now encompasses other areas, all centering around public health, the hygienist as clinician, educator, administrator, researcher, in corporate settings, and as entrepreneur. But public health and the education of children remain central to the heart of dental hygiene.
One hygienist who embraced the challenges of the PHDH role is Jacklyn Ventura, RDH. Jackie has spent more than 26 years in dentistry, and as an active member of the Southeastern component of the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists' Association, she had actively lobbied for the PHDH legislation. Upon its passage, she became one of the first independently practicing PHDHs and was offered a grant through the University of Massachusetts Medical School to establish a dental care center. In 2010, she, along with another PHDH, founded MASS Healthy Smiles, LLC (www.masshealthysmiles.com). Its goal is to help children who do not receive regular dental care in the dental office to get the care they need.
The team at MASS Healthy Smiles strives to improve children's oral health by promoting healthy dental habits through education and preventive services. MASS Healthy Smiles provides relief for parents and caregivers by delivering dental hygiene services where the children are, whether that be at schools, day care centers, or other secure public facilities. They encourage children and families to feel comfortable while receiving dental services and serve as a bridge to local dental providers for more extensive service. While all ages are served, from prekindergarten to high school, the majority of services are provided for children in the prekindergarten to 4th grade level. Since its inception, MASS Healthy Smiles has reduced caries rates in 235 students over three consecutive visits in an 18-month period from a potential caries rate of 21% to 11%, and increased the percentage of children with dentists from 45% to 55%!
Jackie began her professional training while serving in the U.S. Navy and later acquired her dental hygiene degree from Bristol Community College. Always an advocate for the promotion of optimum oral health, she has served as chairperson of the Southeastern Massachusetts Dental Hygienists' Association. Throughout her career, she has devoted her time and efforts to serving in many capacities in SMDHA, and in 2005 was presented with the "Outstanding Dental Hygienist of the Year" for SMDHA. Jackie also serves as trustee to the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists' Association's Board of Trustees for Southeastern and as a member of the Bristol Community College Advisory Board. Jackie has taken MASS Healthy Smiles to serving more than 200 locations in Massachusetts and has expanded dental services to provide dental screenings and preventive care to larger populations, including adults. With several years of cuts in the Massachusetts Medicaid reimbursements for adult dental services, she was inspired to include adult preventive services into the programs that the professional associates of MASS Healthy Smiles provide.
Jackie comments, "I absolutely love being a hygienist. Educating children and families to improve their oral health helps to heal their whole body and improves their quality of life. It gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to work hard at helping patients overcome their fears of dentistry through positive experiences, no matter what age. I look forward to any opportunity to help more people in need and to make a difference in our communities."
Thank you, Jackie, for providing services to patients to empower them to better oral health. You have enriched many lives by all that you do.
IN MASSACHUSETTS IN 2009, THE BOARD OF REGISTRATION IN DENTISTRY APPROVED THE CREATION OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH DENTAL HYGIENIST (PHDH). A PHDH is a practicing dental hygienist who performs procedures in a public health setting with or without the supervision or direction of a dentist. The PHDH is authorized to perform any delegable procedures for licensed dental hygienists in private practice under general supervision. The dental hygienist must have at least three years of full-time clinical experience and must have received appropriate training as determined by the Board of Registration in Dentistry. The PHDH must establish a collaborative agreement with a licensed dentist in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A PHDH may also be directly reimbursed by MassHealth (Medicaid) and the Commonwealth Care insurance programs for the preventive services provided.
www.adha.org/resources - online information accessed 3/25/2013
http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/com-health/oral-health/phdh-fact-sheet.pdf - online information accessed 3/25/2013
ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. Ann-Marie is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at [email protected].
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