Oral Health Program Newsletter - Minnesota Department of Health

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Practicing Rural Dentistry
- a dream becomes reality

Added 12/03/12

Meet Ben Sitz, an incredibly motivated soon-to-be dental student at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry who is deeply committed to serving the oral health needs of rural Minnesotans. Growing up in Park Rapids, Ben understands the complex problems people in his community experience related to receiving dental care. He gained exposure to these issues by shadowing a local dentist while he was still in high school and quickly realized both his passion to become a dentist and his desire to practice in a rural setting. The questions he needed to answer next were what could he do to make this dream a reality and what resources were available to support his goal.

Fortunately for Ben, the answers came sooner rather than later. A few years ago, one of the nurses at his high school heard a speaker mention the University of Minnesota’s Early Decision Rural Dentistry Track Program (EDRDTP). Shortly thereafter a representative from the local Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) met with Ben and his parents. They were thrilled to learn the EDRDTP provides substantial guidance and support for undergraduate students committed to entering dental school and returning to practice dentistry in rural communities upon graduation. The EDRDT program includes a summer experience, mentoring, tuition support, and the ability to obtain an early provisional admission decision by the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. “For me, once I found out about the program [EDRDTP] it reinforced what I knew I wanted to do. I always pictured myself going back to a small town to work and live.”

During his freshman year at Bemidji State University Ben’s goal was to apply and be accepted into the EDRDTP. To prepare, he completed extensive job shadowing, kept his GPA high, and did additional volunteer work to be a more competitive applicant. Ben’s hard work and focused efforts were rewarded and he entered the EDRDTP his sophomore year. As part of the program, students conduct a community project that engages students in oral health issues across the state. Ben’s chosen project was to work with children at a community clinic in rural Minnesota, which exposed him to aspects of dentistry other than private practice. He discovered that there is a greater range of procedures and patient needs making a community clinic setting much more appealing and rewarding than he had anticipated.

Now in his second year in the program, Ben continues to find tremendous benefit from the EDRDTP and from the passionate mentorship Dr. Naty Lopez, program director, provides. He meets with faculty regularly to receive guidance and help to ensure that he doesn’t fall behind and meets the admission requirements. Ben credits the EDRDTP with making his “journey easier” by relieving some of the pressure and making expectations for entering dental school clear. He also stresses how valuable the relationships he formed with faculty and current dental students are in preparing for dental school and returning to practice in the rural community.

Along with the benefits provided by the EDRDTP, students are introduced to other programs, including a five-week summer dental experience that helps participants prepare for the Dental Aptitude Test, write application essays for dental school, conduct a health disparities project, shadow dentists in community clinics, and participate in workshops to teach students about dentistry. Ben reflects back on his plans before entering the EDRDTP, “Originally I wasn’t going to apply to the U of MN, even though it was my dream program, because it was so highly completive. The EDRDTP helped make it possible.”

For more information about the EDRDTP please visit http://www.dentistry.umn.edu/programs-admissions/rural-dentistry/index.htm or contact Dr. Naty Lopez at lopez216@umn.edu

Funding was made possible in part by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration Grants to States to Support Oral Health Workforce Activities, Award Number T12HP14659, to the Minnesota Department of Health Oral Health Program.

Photo of Cdr Ali Danner

CDC Program Services Team Project Officer visits Oral Health Program

Added 10/17/12

Commander Ali Danner, Minnesota’s new CDC Project Officer, will be conducting a site visit on Thursday October 18 and addressing the Coalition on Friday October 19.

What’s in a Site Visit?

Site visits are focused primarily on the current status of the 8 CDC Required Activities and their related products, sometimes called deliverables, as well as concerns and issues.

During the site visit the state oral health program will provide a summary of activities and updates on progress and challenges encountered while working toward achieving outcomes for all the required activities. It is a collegial sharing of in-person updates, accomplishments and challenges, technical reviews, and insights into the health department environment.

The Project Officer seeks ways to contribute to discussions with colleagues and partners and to emphasize Minnesota’s Oral Health Program accomplishments related to the CDC Division of Oral Health cooperative agreement funding (DP08-802). The Project officer is an advocate for the program during his visit—both to the state health department’s leadership and to the State Oral Health Coalition.

The agenda includes visiting with Commissioner Ehlinger, Assistant Commissioner Ayers, the state finance officer, Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Division, and Center for Health Promotion leadership. A site visit is an opportunity to give real meaning to the Cooperative Agreement and to strengthen our collaboration for success as we continue our joint efforts to further build on the oral health activities and successes within Minnesota.

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Register today!
This series includes
the following five courses:

  1. Oral Health from a Public Health Perspective
  2. Collaborative Dental Hygiene Practice
  3. Collaborative Practice Examples
  4. Building a Sustainable Business Model
  5. Risk & Liability

Register for courses at http://www.mchoralhealth.org/mn/

Free Course Series: Collaborative Dental Hygiene Practice in Minnesota

Added 9/23/12

In partnership with government, academic, community, and private individuals and organizations, the Minnesota Oral Health Program completed and launched five courses in a free online series for dental practitioners. The courses provide evidence-based content and include substantial guidance in understanding and implementing a collaborative agreement. Dental hygienists with a collaborative agreement can provide preventive care outside of traditional dental clinics in settings like schools, nursing homes and local public health departments–a key strategy to improving access to care for all Minnesotans.

The Minnesota Department of Health Oral Health Program supports a variety of statewide efforts to expand access to preventive oral health care. A federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration provided funding for this series and a variety of other workforce innovation initiatives that increase access to care for all Minnesotans.

Through a strategic partnership with the National Maternal & Child Oral Health Resource Center (OHRC), the Oral Health Program is able to promote the series at the national level! By hosting the series on their website and including it in publications, the OHRC supports health professionals, program administrators, educators, policymakers, and others in responding to current and emerging public oral health issues.

Content experts who contributed development of the courses:

Catherine Furry
Erica Gosso
Kathy Jo Gunvalson
Clare Larkin
Mary Lou Olsen
Mary Morales
Sheila Riggs
Bob Russell
LPaC Alliance, Halleland Habicht

Lynn Anderson
Bashar Bakdash
Sarah Basile
Kristine Billman
Colleen Brickle
Jayne Cernohous
Melissa Cozart
Khatidja Dawood
Barbara Deming
Rebecca Fahning

Minnesota Oral Health Program receives competitive three year HRSA grant!

Added 8/27/12

The state oral health program has received a three year grant award from the Health Resources and Services Administration that will allow the program and its partners to continue their important work. The purpose of the federal grant is to support oral health workforce activities. The grant will begin on August 31, 2012. Components of the grant include:

  1. Community water fluoridation equipment updates (in years one and two of the grant period)              
  2. School-based sealant programs  
  3. “Building Bridges to a Dental Career–Early Decision Rural Dentistry Track” program at the University of Minnesota Dental School
  4. Rural dental outreach rotation at Scenic Rivers FQHC in Cook, MN
  5. Surveying the oral health of Minnesota children: the Basic Screening Survey            
  6. Recruitment and retention of students in an Advanced Dental Therapist Certification Prep program
  7. Evaluating the impact of Dental Therapists and Advanced Dental Therapists in Minnesota on underserved populations (in years two and three of the grant cycle)
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Oral Health has been Selected as a Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicator for the first time ever!

Added 8/17/12

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has selected oral health as one of the 12 Leading Health Indicators (LHIs) for Healthy People 2020. An HHS Webinar titled Who's Leading the Leading Health Indicators will be held on Monday, August 20 at Noon, EDT. More information is available in the latest spotlight at CDC's Oral Health Resources.

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2012 National Oral Health Conference “Celebrating 75 Years of Public Health Dentistry”

Added 6/11/12

On April 30 through May 3, The Minnesota Oral Health Program joined friends and colleagues in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for this premier dental public health meeting. It offered a wide variety of educational sessions, expert speakers, and an abundance of networking. This was the thirteenth joint meeting of the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors and the American Association of Public Health Dentistry along with its primary sponsor – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 700 professionals were in attendance.


nohc poster presentation
Pictured left David Rindal, Drinking Water Protection Section and right Leslie Nordgren, Office of Rural Health and Primary Care

Minnesota Oral Health Program Presentations for the National Oral Health Conference

Added 6/11/12

The Minnesota Department of Health Oral Health Program submitted nine abstracts to the Education & Science Committee of the National Oral Health Conference for oral and poster presentations. All nine were approved for this premier dental public health conference.

Out of 84 posters that were presented at the conference, the Oral Health Program presented seven posters. In addition, Leslie Nordgren of the Office of Rural Health and Primary Care was one of fifteen oral presentations. Her topic was: “A Methodology For Evaluatiing The Impact Of Dental Therapists And Advanced Dental Therapists In Minnesota”.

Don Bishop, Section Manager for the Center for Health Promotion had this to say: “This activity highlights the important work that the Oral Health Program is doing here in Minnesota with its many partners in the dental community. The progress that the program has made since 2009 has become a model for other states and the process of being accepted for the scientific portion of the conference was rigorous. The fact that all abstracts submitted were accepted is commendable.”

Congratulations to the Oral Health Program team for the following presentations:

  1. Community Fluoridation Optimization Through A Statewide Competitive Funding Process
  2. Environmental Assessment - A Key To Programatic Success
  3. Minnesota Dental Hygienist Supply And Dental Workforce Demand
  4. A Methodology For Evaluatiing The Impact Of Dental Therapists And Advanced Dental Therapists In Minnesota
  5. Translating Policy Into Practice-expanding Access To Preventive Care
  6. Utilizing Registered Dental Hygienists With A Collaborative Agreement In School-based Dental Sealant Programs
  7. Good News/Bad News: Findings show high rate of dental sealants but low rate of treatment care among Minnesota’s low SES 3rd graders
  8. That Must Have Been Some Toothache! Establishing State-based Epidemiologic Surveillance Of Oral Health Complaints In Emergency Departments 

Links to posters on our Links and Resources page

For more information contact: Patti Ulrich at patti.ulrich@state.mn.us or phone (651) 201-4230.


Photo of Amos Deinard

Amos Deinard Presented with AAPHD President’s Award

Added 6/11/12

Amos S. Deinard, M.D., M.P.H, FAAP, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, and Program in Maternal and Child Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, and current Minnesota Oral Health Coalition Vice President, was presented with the 2012 President’s Award at the American Association of Public Health Dentistry’s (AAPHD) award ceremony during the 2012 National Oral Health Conference.

The award was presented by AAPHD President Diane Brunson, RDH, MPH.  In her remarks, Brunson indicated Dr. Deinard has not only served AAPHD in exemplary fashion, but also dental public health as a whole: Amos has worked tirelessly in dental public health to bring the perspective of a pediatrician to dental public health and to be our conscience on behalf of the children in this country.  His participation at the level of AAPHD’s Executive Committee has been essential to the work we do.” 

Dr. Deinard received his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Minnesota and his MPH from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. He has also held a variety of positions in pediatrics at the University which led him to the role as the pediatric consultant to the Minnesota Maternal Child Health Program at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Dr. Deinard is working to improve access to oral health care for Minnesota’s low-income children through a project funded by the Minnesota Department of Health Oral Health Program and the Health Resources & Services Administration. The project is intended to better educate people, particularly parents, about oral health care and encourage physicians and dentists to work together to provide care.

To assist primary care professionals, Dr. Deinard has created an online oral health atlas at http://www.oralhealthzone.umn.edu/ that teaches providers what to look for during oral health exams. He’s also trained primary care physicians in 130 practices and public health nurses across the state to provide “caries prevention intervention” (CPI) as part of the well-child examination. The training provides information on how to: give an oral examination; fill out a caries risk assessment; apply fluoride varnish; and help families locate a dental home by their child’s first birthday.

Congratulations Dr. Deinard – well done!


Early Decision Rural Dentistry Track Program

Added 5/21/12

The Early Decision Rural Dentistry Track Program (EDRDTP) funded by the Minnesota Department of Health allows the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry to recruit students from rural communities to prepare for and enter dental school and return to serve in their communities. This initiative is made possible through partnership with the MDH Oral HealthProgram, seeks to address dental workforce challenges in rural areas by increasing the number of college undergrad students from rural areas who qualify for dental school. The program is funded by a Health Resources and Services Administration dental workforce grant to the Minnesota Oral Health Program.

There are currently three scholars in the program: Trevor Andrews (Bemidji State U), Samuel Duberowski (Northwestern U) and Benjamin Sitz (Bemidji State U). As part of EDRDT program, these students under supervision of their mentors undertake a community project to continue their engagement with their communities and assist in oral health promotion activities or presentation on dental careers in rural high schools. Trevor Andrews volunteers with the First Leech Lake Head Start Round-up. His mentor is Dr. Brandy Larson at the Cass Lake Indian Health Service. He has also worked with Joan Tronson, NW MN AHEC regional director in promoting dental careers at the Cass Lake-Bena School.

Samuel Duberowski is from Motley, MN, who describes himself as having worked with his hands all of his life – building fences and sheds, fixing cars, machinery and electrical problems as well as playing the guitar and drums for his local church. Sam will work under the supervision of his mentor, Dr. Louis Rose, promoting oral health and teaching children who will be attending summer Bible school in different local churches in Motley and neighboring communities this summer. Sam also works as a personal care attendant while in school in St. Paul.

Benjamin Sitz from Park Rapids MN has volunteered at the Northern Dental Access Center in Bemidji where he has seen patients from low-income families seek dental care. Ben has had discussions with various dentists in his community, one of whom is the president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Area Health Services that provides care to the uninsured and underinsured. This hospital serves as the matching community sponsor for Ben’s EDRDT program scholarship. Ben will be assisting with the community data collection project of the Northern Dental Access in several communities this summer.

A fourth EDRDT program scholar will be announced in June 2012. Even though the number of EDRDT scholars is limited, applications to the DDS program at the School of Dentistry have increased and there are 14 students from rural communities in MN who accepted to the incoming DDS class.

The EDRDT program is one of several programs working in collaboration to alleviate the dental workforce problems in rural Minnesota.

- Naty Lopez, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean for Admissions and Diversity
University of Minnesota School of Dentistry


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Minnesota Dental Hygiene Educators' Association Symposium

Added 5/7/12

The Minnesota Department of Health, in partnership with Normandale Community College and the Minnesota Dental Hygiene Educator’s Association (MDHEA), sponsored the Minnesota Dental Hygiene Educators' Association Symposium at Normandale Community College on March 31, 2012. Funding was provided by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. More than eighty Minnesota dental hygiene faculty representing nine programs, in addition to dental hygiene faculty from neighboring states, spent the day discovering unrealized opportunities to guide their students’ career potential.

Minnesota dental hygiene students from state-wide programs joined the educators for part of the morning as Ann Battrell, Executive Director of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association energized the audience and challenged them to “walk through the door” of change when thinking about professional opportunities. She charged the participants with acknowledging our blessings and celebrating our own and others’ accomplishments—a perfect way to open the meeting.

Merry Jo Thoele, Dental Director of the Oral Health Program at the Minnesota Department of Health, provided an in-depth update of oral health projects and endeavors that are happening in our state. Dental Hygiene Collaborative Practice was the focus and in particular how to increase the number of dental hygienists who provide access to care for underserved residents of the state in non-traditional settings. Community water fluoridation was discussed and dental hygienists were encouraged to be advocates for consumption of fluoridated drinking water and to follow the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement regarding adjustment to the recommended level of fluoride in community drinking water.

Kathy Geurink, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dental Hygiene, University of Texas Health Sciences Center-San Antonio led a hands-on workshop in which dental hygiene faculty developed action steps to incorporate public health concepts and activities throughout the dental hygiene curriculum. She will also combine that early input with evaluation form feedback by faculty to create a summary of the Symposium’s influence in shaping or informing future dental hygiene faculty efforts.

Patti Ulrich and Leslie Nordgren from the Minnesota Department of Health offered one on one information to participants regarding the Minnesota state-wide second grade dental sealant program and the current dental hygiene employment study being carried out, respectively.

Others too numerous to mention helped the day flow smoothly. Symposium participants left the meeting full of enthusiasm for their teaching and with a great sense of connection with one another. It was a successful day.

- Clare Larkin, Symposium Planning Committee Lead


normandale logo mda logo

Engaging the Dental Team

Added 4/18/12

Normandale Community College and the Minnesota Dental Association will offer a symposium: “Engaging the Dental Team: Evidence-Based Decision Making through Participation in Practice-Based Research” on Friday May 11, 2012 at Normandale Community College, 8:30-Noon. Registration begins at 8:00 a.m. This interactive program will educate participants about how to implement evidenced-based decision making and how to apply current best evidence in a busy clinic.

Keynote speakers include: Syrene Miller, Gregg Miller, and Pat Foy.
Click here to register on-line or call ph. 952/358-8343.


dental exam

April is National Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Month!

Added 4/2/12

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, close to 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 40,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. (Approximately 57%) For more information: http://oralcancerfoundation.org/events/oral-cancer-awareness-month.html

Medical and dental offices are being encouraged to hold free screening days – not only during the month of April, but throughout the year. The University Of Minnesota School Of Dentistry has developed a detailed video recording of an oral cancer screening performed by Dr. Nelson Rhodus, D.D.S., M.P.H., and Director of the Division of Oral Medicine. You may view the video recording at: www.dentalce.umn.edu/OralCancerVideo/home.html.

SAVE THE DATE! Second Annual Jim Foran Memorial Golf Tournament benefitting the Oral Cancer Foundation. To be held Wednesday July 11, 2012 at Bunker Hills Golf Course, 12800 Bunker Prairie Drive, Coon Rapids, Minn.

For more information email: james-foran@comcast.net


mother and child

Infant Formula and Fluoridated Water

Added 3/29/12

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Dental Association (ADA) offer useful guidance regarding the use of fluoridated water in preparing infant formula. Neither organization currently advises against using fluoridated water for infant formula preparation. Links to the CDC and ADA guidance are listed below.


Ann Battrell, Merry Jo Thoele, Kathy Voigt-Geurink

Minnesota Dental Hygiene Educators' Association Symposium

Added 3/5/12

The Minnesota Department of Health, in partnership with Normandale Community College and the Minnesota Dental Hygiene Educator’s Association (MDHEA), is sponsoring the Minnesota Dental Hygiene Educators' Association Symposium at Normandale Community College. Minnesota dental hygiene faculty will spend the day discovering unrealized opportunities to guide their students’ career potential. Minnesota dental hygiene students will be on campus participating in the Minnesota Dental Hygienists’ Association-sponsored “Student Day” and will join faculty to hear the American Dental Hygienists’ Association insight about their evolving profession.

The symposium will take place on Saturday March 31, 2012 at the Normandale Community College in Bloomington, MN from 8:00am – 2:30pm.

Nationally recognized speakers will be featured:

  • Ann Battrell, Executive Director of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Battrell is the first registered dental hygienist and the first former ADHA president to serve in this position.
  • Merry Jo Thoele, Dental Director of the Oral Health Program at the Minnesota Department of Health.
  • Kathy Voigt-Geurink, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dental Hygiene, University of Texas Health Sciences Center-San Antonio; Head Start Oral Health Project Coordinator for the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors.

For more information: contact Clare Larkin, clare.larkin@normandale.edu  or 952.358.8636


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New Website Promotes Oral Health Careers to High School Students

Added 2/23/12

Tooth Careers.com (www.toothcareers.com) is an interactive website created to educate junior high and high school students about careers in oral health. The Oral Health Unit collaborated with the University of Minnesota’s Academic Health Center (AHC) and the University Of Minnesota School Of Dentistry to develop the website. The website is full of information including videos, games, a career roadmap, and stories from a variety of dental health professionals working in different settings.

After visiting the tooth careers website, students will be able to:

  • Describe and differentiate between the duties of a broad range of dental professionals.
  • Identify types of professional oral health work environments.
  • Describe the type of education, training and/or certification/licensure required for each oral health career, as well as the ranges of associated college tuition and other educational costs.
  • Discuss the range of salaries and earning potential associated with each oral health career.
  • Explore which career(s) may be a good individual fit.

The website compliments an existing effort to encourage Minnesota youth, especially those from rural or disadvantaged backgrounds, to pursue oral health professions careers. This includes promotion of the tooth careers website by college students and staff from the University of Minnesota Dental School’s Early Decision Rural Dentistry Track (EDRDT), a program funded by the Oral Health Unit that provides scholarships for undergraduate students from rural areas who are pursuing dentistry.

*Funding for the tooth careers website and the Early Decision Rural Dentistry Track Program are made possible by a Health Services & Resources Administration grant awarded to the Minnesota Department of Health Oral Health Unit.


rock your smile

Organizations Gearing Up for February

Ready For National Children's Dental Health Month?

Added 2/2/12

The American Dental Association is helping to get people ready for National Children's Dental Health Month in February. Visit their NCDHM website for a variety of free resources (in both English and Spanish) that will encourage children to "Rock Your Smile." Products for purchase are also available. For more information: http://www.ada.org/news/6685.aspx.

The American Dental Hygienists' Association is also honoring National Children's Dental Health Month by focusing on the importance of early education on a proper oral health regimen. Click here for helpful tips on establishing an oral hygiene routine and preparing children for oral checkups.



Oral Health Selected as a Leading Health Indicator

Added 1/20/12

For the first time, an Oral Health objective has been selected as one of the 12 leading health indicators for Healthy People 2020 (out of 42 topic areas). This will provide increased visibility for oral health throughout the next decade. The selected objective is to “Increase the proportion of children, adolescents and adults who used the oral health care system in the past 12 months.” The target for this objective is 49% of persons age two years and older with a dental visit in the past 12 months from a baseline of 44.5%―a percentage that has remained essentially unchanged over the past decade. The press release announcing the Leading Health Indicators is available at www.hhs.gov/ash/news/20111031.html.

August has been selected as the month to highlight oral health as a leading health indicator. Work continues on completing the final review documents for Healthy People 2010. Preliminary information for the final review has been posted on CDC’s Web site and is available at www.cdc.gov/nchs/healthy_people/hp2010/hp2010_final_review.htm


Updated Wednesday, September 04, 2013 at 10:39AM