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.
Elena Francisco, RDHAP, MS has been practicing dental hygiene for over 40 years and has been an RDHAP since 2005.