Interprofessional educational partnerships in school health for children with special oral health needs.

Dental caries is an infectious yet preventable disease that is rampant in some subpopulations in the United States, in particular among individuals with neurodevelopmental/intellectual disabilities (ND/ID). This article reports on the implementation and evaluation of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) School of Dentistry interprofessional school health educational model to improve oral health assessment and referral for children with ND/ID in an inner-city school system. During this project, dental hygiene students and elementary school nurses were paired to assess the oral health status of 255 inner-city children with developmental disabilities, improve referral/access to dental care for those identified as having need, and propose dental hygiene curriculum changes that would incorporate participation in a “real-life public health setting” for those with ND/ID. Following the program, 66 percent of dental hygiene students said their likelihood of participating in future oral health programs had increased and 75 percent of school nurses rated the educational process as very good or excellent. Modifications in dental hygiene curricula that provide students with training and experience in oral health risk assessment and referral for people with ND/ID is recommended to address the new Commission on Dental Accreditation educational standards 2-18 and 2-26 (implemented January 1, 2005) and dental standard 2-26 (implemented January 1, 2006), which state that dental hygiene and dental graduates must be competent in assessing the treatment needs of patients with special needs.