Spotlight: Health Professionals Providing Quality Dental Care

IB ImageJill Quast, RDH (right) is the dental hygienist specialist for Hartford Public Schools (HPS) where for 15 years she has provided oral care services for students and education for their families. She is part of a team of dental care providers and support staff serving approximately 12,000 kids annually in clinical settings at 15 of the district's schools.
 
After more than four decades in dental health, Quast sees hygienists as "cheerleaders for letting the public know what you need to do to take care of your teeth." Her goal is to help students and their families look beyond oral care to "recognize and understand that health begins in the mouth. The healthier your mouth is, the healthier your body," added Quast, who also serves as first vice president of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated Hartford Federation of School Health Professionals.
 
Quast and her colleagues in HPS' school-based dental clinics provide students with a variety of oral care services, including examinations, cleanings, fluoride treatments, x-rays, restorations and extractions. She credits the program's success to collaboration with the district's nurses and the commitment of union leaders and school administrators. 
 
"Improved access to dental care for children is a big priority," she said. "Our program is unique, and we need to spread the word about what we've been able to accomplish here in Hartford."
 
Click here to watch Quast share more about how Hartford's dental caregivers keep their "students smiling."
 
IB ImageKaren Pirro, RDH (left) is a registered dental hygienist at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine where for 16 years she has met patients' oral care needs. Along with a team of hygienists and dentists at the school's UConn Health campus in Farmington, Pirro provides comprehensive and specialized services, including cleanings, X-rays and exams. She is a firm believer in promoting a culture where effective dental care is a shared priority.
 
"Dental hygiene is the gateway to a healthy body," said Pirro, a member of our University Health Professionals (UHP) union. "If you don't take care of the health of your teeth, it takes a toll and it affects your entire life," she added.
 
As a dental hygienist for nearly four decades, Pirro has seen firsthand countless examples of positive health outcomes for patients, their families and their communities. As a state employee on the front lines of the fight for Connecticut's quality of life, she also seen the consequences when those needs go unmet.
 
"Public health dentistry needs a lot of support right now, and it always has," she said in reference to federal and state budget cuts that directly impact patients. Pirro wants lawmakers considering more austerity policies like those adopted by Connecticut's legislature earlier this year to understand how difficult it is to "get services to people who need help." 
 
Click here for press coverage of the impact of state budget cuts on services provided at UConn Health.
 
IB ImageMaxine Tai-Greaves, RDH (right), is a registered dental hygienist at Community Health Services (CHS) in Hartford, the federally qualified health center (FQHC) that serves the capitol region. She and her colleagues meet a wide range of oral care needs for children and families often struggling with poverty and frequently uninsured. Approximately 5,000 patients every year rely on Tai-Greaves and her team for preventative screenings and sealants, X-rays, restorative services and referrals for specialty care.
 
In 22 years of caring for an underserved population, Tai-Greaves has come to believe that community outreach and parent engagement are key to a child's oral health.
 
"It's starts with the youth, preaching to them the importance of good oral hygiene," said Tai-Greaves, a member of our CHS United union, which in June grew to include the clinic's medical and dental assistants. "But it won't be beneficial to the children at all if parents don't enforce at home what we teach here," she said.
 
Tai-Greaves credits progress in promoting oral health to recent social and educational efforts that have expanded community outreach. CHS has joined with the Hartford Dental Society, the West Indian Foundation and the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), among other community partners, to host regular free dental clinics. 
 
“Offering services at no cost — cleanings, filings, extractions, minor dental work — for those who don't have insurance is one way we can reach out and make a difference," added Tai-Greaves.
 
Click here to see CHS United members in August at the clinic's annual health fair.
 
The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) and its partners work year-round to raise public awareness about good oral health, but especially during October when they promote National Dental Hygiene Month (NDHM). Not only does the annual event celebrate the work of dedicated healthcare professionals like Quast, Pirro and Tai-Greaves, but it helps advance their shared mission.
 
Click here to learn more about the NHHM 2016 campaign.
 
The theme of this year's recognition is "starting the conversation," in reference to dental hygienists' unique relationship with their patients and the wider community. The goal is to empower these health professionals to promote the "Daily 4" regimen, which includes brushing, flossing, antimicrobial mouth-rinsing and chewing sugar-free gum after eating or drinking.
 
Click here to watch the ADHA president's "Daily 4" message.