AHCH Dental Team Improves Oral Health For People Without Homes

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PROFILE/FEATURE of 2021 Round Up Newsletter. Coming Soon!  Original Feature: AHCH February 2021 Newsletter  Your Partnership Makes Oral Health Equity Available Ending tooth pain and decay for people experiencing homelessness is a priority for AHCH Dental Program.  Celebrate National Dentists Day on March 6. Dentists play an essential role in people's health, wellbeing, and more so for people who have long lacked oral care. The AHCH Dental Team is eager to get back to serving at pre-pandemic capacity with a specific emphasis on finding people who are unsheltered, including recent planning for more oral health care on outreach. Dental health is imperative to a person’s ability to eat well, express oneself, maintain self-confidence, and remain free of pain from easily treatable conditions such as tooth abscesses. All of these factors are essential to a person’s capacity to get or stay healthy, acquire housing and/or employment, and transition out of homelessness. However, oral health is difficult for people experiencing homelessness to maintain and lack of access to it can have serious implications for their overall physical health and well-being.  The consequences of COVID-19 for people experiencing homelessness have been devastating. Managing good oral health practices during the current public health crisis among unsheltered homeless populations requires a critical rethinking of how to provide integrated quality dental care.  Shortly after joining the AHCH Dental Clinic Team in 2020, Dr. Fazel began serving as a representative on a COVID response team for people experiencing homelessness, to provide training and guidance to peers, as well as to clarify internal measures and offer training across AHCH departments. In fact, all AHCH Clinical Leadership roles serve as health care subject matter experts and support emergency housing centers and social service providers. Dr. Fazel, continues to lead COVID-19 safety measures and is working with the larger AHCH Safety Team to incorporate them across the organization in addition to providing technical assistance and training for partner organizations. Dr. Fazel, along with the AHCH Street Medicine Outreach Team and the AHCH Pharmacy serve as representatives on the New Mexico Department of Health community vaccine work group to facilitate information sharing and to ensure that AHCH patients and clients gain access to COVID-19 vaccines when it becomes available. RELATED: PROFILE: Nadia (The Other Spread. January 2022) The AHCH Dental Clinic maintains and ensures the safety and protection of patients with state-of-the-art infection controls and best practice protocols from the American Dental AssociationThe use of personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, gloves, protective eyewear, and gowns has led to better protection for staff and patients during this public health crisis. Recently, AHCH invested in Duramax technology, which is an aerosol system that eliminates contaminants produced during dental procedures. Potential contaminants include saliva, blood, dust, and viruses like COVID-19. Its Quattro layer filtration system effectively kills 99% of viruses and bacteria. Five dental exam rooms are equipped with Duramax technology. This keeps the Dental Clinic safe and clean. 

The AHCH Dental Clinic continues to see patients in a deconcentrated model—one dentist on shift at any given time to allow for expanded cleaning time and prevent overcrowding of patients and staff. The clinic offers a full range of routine, emergency, preventive, and comprehensive dental care, and services include x-rays, crowns, silver and white fillings, root canals, extractions, and dentures. Walk ins for toothaches are always available. The Dental Clinic is also enhancing its outreach services to increase engagement in public spaces, encampments, and at emergency housing centers. Dr. Fazel said she had an amazing mentor in her Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) residency in Phoenix which motivated her to pursue a career with a focus on marginalized populations. She said AHCH encompassed her core values in ways she never thought any organization would.  “I’m surrounded by the most exceptional people. Their passion and energy is contagious in the best way. I feel so blessed to be part of an organization who is so mission focused and works every day to make a difference and strive for social justice. We are driven to make our clients’ lives better and there is no greater mission. It really made me realize that it is with this population that I could make the biggest difference,” said Dr. Fazel. “Don’t forget about us. We are here and ready to serve.”

RELATED: Delivering Dental Care for People Experiencing Homelessness (November, 2021).

The AHCH Dental Clinic Welcomes New Dental Hygienist Whitney Compton joined the AHCH Dental Clinic Team in December 2020. Whitney is currently in the Master of Science Degree Program in Dental Hygiene through the University of New Mexico. Beginning in August, Whitney will begin pursuing a Masters of Public Health degree from the University of New Mexico's College of Population Health. Whitney has lived in Albuquerque for 10 years and working with AHCH and serving people experiencing homelessness was her career path. Whitney said, "Making a difference and saving lives is why I'm here."  Dental hygienists are the front-line professionals when it comes to dental health. They work closely with dentists, but they do more than just clean teeth. They examine teeth and mouth for signs of injury or disease, such as gingivitis. Dental hygienists are also teachers, as they help children and adults learn how to clean their teeth effectively. For more information, contact AHCH at 505-766-5197 or visit abqhch.org.

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