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Providing dental care to the underserved without the supervision of a dentist

Oct. 3, 2023
As an expanded practice dental hygienist (EPDH) working in a variety of settings, Charisa Lockman, BS, RDH, has had the opportunity to help many low-income patients in need of dental care.

Each month, the RDH PIRA (Patient Impact & Rise Above) recognition program, sponsored by Water Pik, Inc., features a dental hygiene clinician who goes the extra mile in their job to change their patients’ lives, influence their patients’ health, and make a daily difference. This month, the honor goes to Charisa Lockman, BS, RDH, for bringing preventive oral care to patients in her area who have difficulty accessing care.

Charisa Lockman, BS, RDH, is a 2003 graduate of the Clark College dental hygiene program in Washington State and the 2003 recipient of the Western Society of Periodontology award. After working in private practice, Charisa realized she was not completely fulfilled in her professional life. In 2015, she obtained her expanded practice permit so she could bring preventive oral care to patients in her area who were having a hard time accessing care.

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As part of her bachelor’s degree completion program, Charisa was enrolled in a class where she researched, did a needs assessment, planned, and implemented a community dental health project. After much research and connecting with community members, Charisa chose a local elementary school to screen and provide fluoride varnish for 33 children in the summer of 2016. She developed a needs-based assessment and consent forms and provided oral health education for the kids.  

Since obtaining her expanded practice permit, Charisa has been able to provide care for underserved populations without the supervision of a dentist. She works full-time in several clinical and outreach settings and provides services at a dental clinic within a federally qualified health center (FQHC), a pediatric clinic inside a local Boys and Girls Club, and in many outreach settings, such as apartment complexes, health fairs, and special events. As an ambassador for health maintenance, Charisa wants to increase patient awareness of overall health.  

As an expanded practice dental hygienist (EPDH) working in a variety of settings in the county where she lives in Oregon, Charisa has the opportunity to provide preventive care for many low-income patients, including those in an FQHC, elementary/middle schools, and outreach events. She sees children, pregnant women, and elderly patients. She and her colleagues have developed numerous handouts in both English and Spanish. 

For the past three years, Charisa has been working at an FQHC, providing care to low-income patients. She advocates for her patients, many of whom do not speak English as their first language, and countless others who have experienced different traumas. Her sunny personality puts her patients at ease in a place where many are fearful. Most recently, Charisa found a lump in the neck of one of her patients and helped him get further care to evaluate the lesion. To help kids receive the preventive oral care they need, Charisa delivers baskets with educational information and information about where to get oral care.  

Charisa also curated and delivered information and products for patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation to help with oral side effects. In August 2022, she helped coordinate the first Oral Cancer Foundation-sponsored walk and free oral screening in Corvallis, Oregon. She also created dental educational videos for Head Start children. She is now co-coordinating the second annual Oregon Oral Cancer Foundation walk and screening to take place September 2023.  

Charisa offers this professional guidance to new dental hygiene graduates: “Physically take care of yourself by utilizing good ergonomics. The best investments I have made are magnification loupes with a headlight and an RGP dental chair. Additionally, maintain sharp dental instruments and organize your operatory so that items are easily accessible.” 

Clinical tips include: “Be open to trying new products and processes. Products that I use frequently are Oraqix and silver diamine fluoride. Because of the increased amount of time I spend using the Cavitron, I have found that shortening the HVE eases manipulation and reduces stress on my wrist.”  

In her spare time, Charisa enjoys watching her 15-year-old daughter play volleyball. She also enjoys riding her horse, often competing in barrel racing events. 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the October 2023 print edition of RDH magazine. Dental hygienists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.