Expanding the oral health workforce for the youngest keiki

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Desiree Uyeda, (808) 956-2904
Marketing Manager, School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene
Posted: Jul 10, 2017

A new certificate program for dental hygienists will increase dental care for children.
A new certificate program for dental hygienists will increase dental care for children.

The UH Mānoa School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene received federal funding for an initiative to expand the oral health workforce in Hawai‘i that will meet the needs of keiki up to 5 years of age. The Utilization of the Post-BS 0-5 Years Pediatric Expanded Function Dental Hygiene (EFDH) Certificate Program to Improve Oral Health Outcomes for Infants and Young Children in Hawai'i project is a $1.5 million, 5-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Department of Health’s 2016 Hawaiʻi third-grade surveillance report revealed that 7 out of 10 third-graders (71%) experienced tooth decay, with 22% having untreated decay. In addition, more than 60% of children lacked dental sealants, with greater disparities noted based on income, race/ethnicity and geography. The Pew Charitable Trust gives Hawaiʻi a grade of “F” for lack of a dental sealant program.

The project goal is to increase the dental workforce serving children from birth to 5 years of age in underserved areas of the State of Hawai′i by developing a post-baccalaureate Expanded Function Dental Hygiene (EFDH) certificate program for licensed dental hygienists, and to increasing the bachelor’s prepared student’s knowledge and comfort in providing pediatric dental hygiene services to the community. UH Mānoa’s Hawai‘i Keiki: Health and Ready to Learn Program in partnership with the Department of Education will participate with sites providing access to oral health services and education.

The UH Mānoa School of Nursing & Dental Hygiene currently offers a 4-year baccalaureate degree in dental hygiene. The school graduates 20 students per year and educates 80% of the dental hygiene workforce in the state.

“As the state’s leader in dental hygiene education, we are in a unique position to create an innovative program that is not currently offered in Hawaiʻi, to address the growing oral health needs of our youngest population of children,” said Mary G. Boland, DrPH, RN, FAAN, dean of UH Mānoa Nursing and Dental Hygiene. “Our nursing and dental hygiene departments have partnered together and worked closely with the dental community to develop a certificate program that will help advance the education of local dental hygienist and will also help thousands of children.”

The two-semester EFDH certificate program will recruit recent dental hygiene graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from neighbor islands, and will provide academic and tuition support. The project will graduate 15 EFDH certificate students by summer 2022.

Graduates of the EFDH certificate program will be prepared to work in community settings where there are documented pediatric dental health concerns, especially those living in dental underserved areas. The curriculum will include developmental, social and behavioral instruction with an emphasis on dental education, assessment, diagnosis and delivery of preventive services to young children in underserved communities.

 “With over 25 years as a pediatric advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) I have seen first-hand the long-term effects of early childhood dental disease. This program is important because we have indentified intervention methods of bringing oral assessment to the children and referring them to a dentist for additional services,” said principal investigator Deborah J. Mattheus, PhD, CPNP, APRN-Rx, assistant professor at UH Mānoa Nursing. “Working closely with Kristine Osada, RDH, BS, MEd, UH Mānoa Dental Hygiene department chair, we will revise the current curriculum to increase pediatric content for dental hygiene students, offer the continuing education EFDH certificate program for licensed dental hygienists, and increase the number of children receiving dental services throughout our State.”

The project began on July 1, 2017, with the first certificate students to start classes in August 2018. Dental hygienists interested in the EFDH certificate program should contact Dr. Deborah Mattheus at mattheus@hawaii.edu or (808) 956-8426.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number D85HP30832, Predoctoral Training in General, Pediatric, and Public Health Dentistry and Dental Hygiene for $1.5 million. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by, HRSA, HHS or the U.S. government.

For more information, visit: http://www.nursing.hawaii.edu/home