Bulletin of Dental Education

Central Community College Dental Hygiene Resumes Head Start Collaboration

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The Central Community College (CCC) Dental Hygiene program resumed Head Start preventive clinics in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provides preventive services to approximately 1,250 children per year. In addition, these children are seen four times per year for over 5,000 preventive visits per year. Services provided include oral screenings, oral health education, fluoride varnish applications, silver diamine fluoride applications and glass ionomer sealants. 

Courtesy of Central Community College

Deb Schardt, RDH, PHRDH, Adjunct Dental Hygiene Instructor, emphasized the importance of Head Start preventive clinics to continue through the pandemic as the preventive services do not generate aerosol and the risk is low.

“We have been able to resume providing preventive dental services at our local Head Starts and some integrated rural pre-schools,” says Prof. Schardt. “We have had a strong partnership with Head Start for over 10 years. I believe the trust that existed between our program and their staff helped us in figuring out a plan post-COVID.”

Head Start has always had a toothbrushing program, but it was suspended as a result of the pandemic. “This was eye-opening, thinking about the aerosols generated during basic brushing. As the school year was set to resume, I worked with Head Start leadership to let them know that we were still able and willing to provide services. We emphasized that we would be going above and beyond with PPE and taking extra measures to protect both staff and students as well as our providers.”

CCC Dental Hygiene has incorporated additional PPE for the Head Start preventive clinics. Per Head Start and CCC guidelines, temperatures of the dental hygiene students and faculty are taken prior to entering the buildings. Students and faculty are required to wear head covers, disposable gowns, face shields and N-95 masks with a level 3 over the top. Even though the higher level of mask is not required for non-aerosol generated procedures, these precautions offer another layer of protection for both patients and clinicians.

“The kids are used to coming to us for treatment, so the extra gear doesn’t seem to bother them since they are also wearing masks. They seem to understand that concept. There are Head Start students [who] have chosen not to go back to in-person school and are doing things remotely so we still haven’t found a way to reach those children. We are just thankful to be back providing much needed preventive services,” says Prof. Schardt. 

Courtesy of Wanda Cloet, Central Community College 

Published on November 11, 2020

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