Integrating Oral Health in the Community with Home Visitor Trainings

Home visitors are an integral part of Virginia’s health care system; they are on the front lines of care and education, reaching rural or at-risk populations who may otherwise fall through the cracks. As members of the communities they serve, home visitors build trust with patients and families and create long-lasting, ongoing relationships with community members.

Home visitors have a unique opportunity to affect the oral health and overall health of the families they serve by emphasizing the role oral health plays in overall health starting at a young age. Mylinda Moore, director of training and technical assistance for CHIP of Virginia and a member of the Virginia Oral Health Coalition’s early childhood subcommittee, understands the importance of oral health awareness among home visitors. “I think, for any model [or type of home visiting program], focusing on oral health is an important component. We know oral health is linked to overall health, and, in general, when a child has oral health issues like dental pain, [those issues] impact every aspect of their life. Caring for your teeth is a habit that must start in early childhood, and home visitors have the perfect opportunity to educate parents,” said Mylinda.

To ensure every home visitor in Virginia is trained in the role that oral health plays in overall health, and share resources with community health workers and home visitors, Mylinda worked with the Coalition staff to offer free educational trainings around the Commonwealth. These training are facilitated by the Virginia Department of Health and are open to anyone, including home visitors, community health workers, associated staff/support, families with infants, toddlers and school age children, and families of children with special health care needs.

Participants of the trainings learn current, evidence-based, information about oral health care and oral disease prevention, strategies for sharing the information with the families they work with and Virginia-specific information about coverage and where care is available. For example, in our recent Richmond-area training, participants learned that when a parent shares a spoon with a child, or uses their mouth to clean a pacifier before giving it back, bacteria is passed from parent to child that can result in oral disease. “I saw the lightbulb go off for a lot of people in the room when we talked about how bacteria enters the mouth of small children,” said Mylinda. Sharing this information, along with tips on when to start having children brush their teeth and go to the dentist, gives parents and their children the tools to improve their oral health.

The trainings also emphasize opportunities for pregnant women in Virginia to receive oral health care –  something home visitors can drive home with expecting mothers. Home visitors leave with a better understanding of the importance of oral health care during pregnancy and information on the Medicaid dental benefit for pregnant women.

There are two more trainings this year: September 27 in Harrisonburg and October 30 in Norfolk. Join us to learn about the intersection of oral health with overall health and how to promote oral health care practices. We encourage anyone working to improve community health and well-being, whether medical or dental, to attend the training and to check out our oral health integration resources.

Visit our events page to register.