An RDHAP is licensed to provide dental hygiene care to those with limited access to care in the traditional dental office setting. What does a person who has "limited access to dental hygiene care" look like? This blog post is about how RDHAPs can work within the school setting.
As I stated in the previous post, independently practicing dental hygienists, RDHAPs, can work in various settings:
The number of school aged children with unmet dental needs is currently five (5) times higher than the number of kids with asthma. Worse, tooth decay is an entirely preventable disease. We also know that children from low income families are the hardest hit with dental disease. Their parents often cannot take off work to get them to the dentist. Dentists who accept Medi-Cal dental insurance are often overbooked, appointments are difficult to get, and often the offices are not close to the family. The RDHAP is trained to help these children arrest and prevent tooth decay.
An RDHAP can make connections with schools in high need areas in order to provide preventive dental hygiene care to children who may otherwise not get that care. Schools where RDHAPs can serve include schools that teach primarily children from low income families, also called Title 1* schools. These can be in rural, suburban or urban areas.
The RDHAP can set up and provide cleanings, sealants, varnish, and help the school nurse assess severe dental needs. Some RDHAPs are trained to place temporary fillings, as well. See the Dental Sealants post for pictures of Cathy Dornbush, RDHAP set up in a grammar school.
Providing dental hygiene care in a school setting is a great way to reduce the time kids are kept out of school for dental pain and dental care appointments. Seeing the RDHAP in the school setting can also be more pleasant than the trip to the dental office. Our goal is to teach these kids better oral health habits and prevent painful cavities. This makes their trips to the dental office less traumatic.
If you are a parent wondering how you can get an RDHAP to come to your school to provide these important services, ask the school nurse. Often there are grant funds available with which the school can hire an RDHAP. This is a very collaborative effort involving the parents who advocate for their children, the school nurse, the administration, and the RDHAP.
*Title 1, Part A is part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act created by the U. S. Department of Education. See https://www2.ed.gov/programs/titleiparta/index.html?exp=0 for more information.
A registered dental hygienist in alternative practice or RDHAP is licensed to provide dental hygiene care to those with limited access to the traditional dental office setting. I wanted to share a little about who these folks are. What does a person who has "limited access to dental hygiene care" look like?
I wanted to break this post into 4 smaller bits of information. As I may have already said and is also stated in the About section of this website, we can see patients in:
We can take our practice to residences of the homebound, providing dental hygiene care for patients who have challenges getting to the dental office. These patients may be unable to leave the home without the assistance of an ambulance or getting out may be a physical and emotional challenge.
Our patients may be those with temporary disabilities, such as an accident or surgery with a long recovery process. We also see those with developmental disabilities or progressive disease processes, such as ALS, multiple sclerosis, or any of a number of illnesses or conditions that make mobility and caring for their oral health challenging.
Family members and caregivers notice that people fighting disabilities have to pick their battles when choosing to leave their homes. Getting in and out of the car, in and out of the dental office, and in and out of the dental chair can be very stressful and even painful. An RDHAP can see these patient at home for cleanings, periodontal maintenance, fluoride application, and whatever assistance the RDHAP can provide, saving the stressful visits to the dental office for dental examinations and restorative care. We collaborate with dentists and can help the patient and dentist better manage their care.
We also collaborate with the patient's physician to insure we are not putting the patient at risk for medical complications.
The RDHAP is well-trained to assess the oral health of each patient. The law in California states, however, that the patient still needs to have a dental examination on a regular basis. Your RDHAP will assist you in making sure the patient has his or her dental examination needs met.
Elena Francisco, RDHAP, MS has been practicing dental hygiene for over 40 years and has been an RDHAP since 2005.