Back to top

DTA Foundation Grant Chat: Embedding Dental Hygienists Into Pediatric Practices

DTA Foundation Grant Chat: Embedding Dental Hygienists Into Pediatric Practices

Inspired by consumer engagement research, the Florida Institute for Health is embedding dental hygienists into pediatric practices to help create and foster lifetime dental health for the next generation. Thanks to your generous donations, a $25,000 DTA Foundation grant will help them expand their pilot program to a fifth site.

Recently, we sat down with Florida Institute for Health Innovation Chief Operating Officer Kristin Palbicke Garces, MPH, to find out more about the program and how others could implement a similar one.


Can you tell us a little about your program and who it is targeted to help?

We have designed a medical-dental integration pilot that embeds dental hygienists into pediatric practices, with these practices providing basic preventive services (screening, fluoride varnish) and care coordination to establish a dental home for all pediatric patients, with a focus on children enrolled in Medicaid. This work was largely inspired by our consumer engagement research, which was a statewide study that asked parents to share their experiences, challenges and barriers to accessing care for their children. Often we found the parents most open to receiving guidance from their pediatricians; the Institute developed a business plan based on this result and we now, currently, have four pilot sites.

What is your ultimate goal with this program?

We want to improve access to preventive services and establish dental homes for Florida children in a creative and sustainable way, operating within the systems that exist. Our hope is that through connecting more children with preventive services we can begin to turn the curve on oral health statistics in Florida.

How will having the DTA Foundation grant help you meet that goal?

The DTA Foundation grant has allowed us to expand the pilot to an additional site, which is invaluable, as each operates a little differently and thus offers a wealth of knowledge as we learn best practices and procedures to further scale this project.

How will this program help to improve oral health in your area?

We are connecting children to preventive services and screenings and also helping to establish a dental home. We are on track to provide preventive services and screenings to all children who opt in at the pilot sites.

What three pieces of advice would you give others considering implementing a program like yours?
1. Be willing to fail, learn, and improve. It has been a challenging and exciting learning process for our team.

2. Make it as easy as possible to implement new services for pediatric practices. We are working with very busy pediatric practices with many priorities, number one being the patient, requiring too much of the practice can delay the process.

3. Reach out to your network for guidance.

Is there anything you’d like to say to the donors who make the DTA Foundation grants possible?

The oral health statistics for Florida children have needed improvement for some time; we appreciate your faith in and support of our project to address that need. FIHI is committed to improving these statistics and measuring that change and sincerely thanks the donors for being partners in this effort.