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Your Healthy Family: Medical Dental Integration

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Have you heard of the The Delta Dental Foundation's Colorado Medical Dental Integration Program?  It’s doing amazing things in smaller communities across Colorado. Have you heard of the The Delta Dental Foundation's Colorado Medical Dental Integration Program? It’s doing amazing things in smaller communities across Colorado.

Have you heard of the The Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation's Colorado Medical Dental Integration Program?  It’s doing amazing things in smaller communities across Colorado.  In larger cities like Colorado Springs or Pueblo the problem parents face is finding which pediatric dentist to take their kids to.  In many rural and mountain communities the problem there are no pediatric dentists to help parents make sure their kids dental health is on track.

In La Junta at Valley Wide Medical Clinic, you can have a wide array of medical procedures performed.  The clinic is home to a primary care clinic, a convenience care clinic, and for the last two years, the COMDI, that stands for Colorado Medical Dental Integration Program.  COMDI initially was started with a focus on pediatric patients, has been expanded into O.B. patients and chronic care patients.

Charlene Pariera is a Registered Dental Hygienist who leads the program at Valley Wide in La Junta.  Charlene hadn’t worked with kids before this chapter of her dental career, but says, "I love working with the kids it's the best part of my job, really.  They are so full of life and they are willing to soak in the info you give them."

Cindy Macias is the clinic manager who says when she saw the chance to take better care of the patients she jumped at it.  "We saw there were so many patients coming in that were not getting a comprehensive health evaluation and their needs were not being met, particularly in the dental area so when this opportunity came up we jumped on it, to integrate the dental care in with the medial appointments.”

Wyatt Hornsby is Campaign Director with the non-profit Delta Dental Foundation.  Hornsby says the mission of the foundation is to increase education and make a tangible impact on the dental health and habits of kids in Colorado.

Hornsby says the beauty of the dental integration program is putting dental care where medical care is provided in smaller communities.  “We are bringing a hygienist into medical practices trying to integrate care so we are putting the mouth back in the body vs. the mouth being separate from the body the way the current model is."

The program is currently in in 16 clinics and has treated 20,000 people.  Charlene says teaching the kids proper attitudes and habits is actually the easier part of the job.  "Working with the parents is where more barriers occur.  Trying  to change generations of ideas that teeth are important, and it's not natural for your teeth to just fall out."

Dr. Fred Guerra is a dentist in Colorado Springs, who see’s the genius in the program’s approach for many reasons.  “Colorado is one of the states where a hygienist can practice independent of a dentist, they have the skill and the training to examine a patient and diagnose disease and work in concert with whatever dentist they are referring the patient to making sure the children get the care they deserve.”

Dr. Guerra also sees a benefit to everyone in Colorado based the economics of the program.  "From an economical standpoint to diagnose early, and if these kids are in a remote area a lot of kids are on medicaid we have had a big expansion in the state.  The cost of the overall medicaid program can be kept down by starting early and letting hygienists get involved in screening as many of these kids as possible.  Especially for these kids that don’t have routine access to a dental office.  I think it's a great program."

As a registered hygienist that is exactly what Charlene does, provides basic cleaning and treatment and sends the cases that need to be treated by a dentist in Pueblo.  “I try to encourage parents to make the trip (to Pueblo).  I try to work with them if they don't have transportation we have a lady here that works with that, and we try to break down barriers to getting there as much as possible."

Desiree Jones a mother of 3, says the program has had a huge impact in the lives of her kids.  “It's more convenient and more accessible for mothers who can't get further away.  It's easier because here, you get to do a health exam and a dental exam together."

And she's noticed a big difference in her girls Jordan and Jasmine.  "They are now better on brushing their teeth and flossing and use mouth was as well, all this Charlene has put into our daily routine and helped them learn how to do it the right way."

Charlene says, "We use the word pioneers and I love that.  We are being pioneers and trying to lead the way in changing how things are perceived.  Most parents and kids come in for a well child check, so what a great way to bring dental care and medical care together.  With the expansion to O.B. patients we are changing the way parents will take care of their infant’s teeth, so we are literally impacting generations.”

Cindy says she can’t imagine her clinic now without the dental integration program.  "It's just turned out to be such a good program, because we're are trying to provide a comprehensive experience.  There are so many people that come in, that have not been seen at a dentist in a long time.  We are able to stay after them to establish with a dentist.  We don't just see them once and get our numbers in.  We see them and provide good care for them here."

Charlene says her efforts, and the efforts of Valley Wide in La Junta wouldn't be possible without the vision, and support of The Delta Dental Foundation.  "They are so supportive, and we all talk to each other twice a year in a training session.  All participating clinics and clinicians can brainstorm, because this is all new.  The Delta Dental Foundation is a huge support.  They are tracking information for 5 years to study the impact of the program and trying to eradicate tooth decay in children, it's the number one disease for them."

According to the foundation, in Colorado 40% of kindergartners and 55% of 3rd graders suffer from tooth decay, and they and are hoping this program can make a big dent in that number.

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