UW School of Dentistry

UW launches new training program for children’s oral health

A University of Washington Health Sciences team led by the School of Dentistry is launching an interprofessional training program to improve access to dental care for children ranging in age from the first year of life through 5 years.

Dr. Amy Kim
Dr. Amy Kim

Early Childhood Oral Health Training, or EchoTrain, will provide pediatric dental training directly to UW dental students, Shoreline Community College dental hygiene students, and students and trainees of the UW School of Medicine. Collaborative learning is also planned with faculty, students and trainees from not only UW Medicine but the UW’s Schools of Public Health and Pharmacy.

EchoTrain will also develop learning modules that can be used at other institutions and for work force training in continuing-education programs. Instructional videos will also be created at the UW for possible nationwide dissemination to dental and dental hygiene students.

The program, which is funded by a $1.5 million, five-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is led by Dr. Amy Kim, Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry.

Dr. Frank Roberts
Dr. Frank Roberts

“It really does take a village, and I feel that we’ve put a great team together,” Dr. Kim said. Her EchoTrain collaborators include School of Dentistry faculty colleagues Dr. Frank Roberts, Associate Professor of Periodontics and Director of the Regional Initiatives in Dental Education (RIDE) program; Dr. Travis Nelson, Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatric Dentistry; Dr. Rachel Greene, Clinical Instructor of Restorative Dentistry and Regional Clinical Director of Service Learning Rotations; and Marilynn Rothen, Clinical Assistant Professor of Oral Health Sciences. Dr. Kim is principal investigator for the HRSA grant and the other faculty members are co-investigators.

Why is there a need for the program? Dr. Kim and the other EchoTrain leaders said that research indicates there not only aren’t enough pediatric dentists to serve the needs of Washington’s children, but they’re also not easily accessible where they’re most needed, especially in rural and underserved areas. General dentists are more accessible, but not all of them are comfortable with treating young children. Also, while pediatric dentistry residents undergo extensive training in treating medically complex children, general dentists do not.

Dr. Kim is also RIDE’s Associate Director and serves as Co-Director of the University of Washington’s  Center for Health Sciences Interprofessional Education Research and Practice (CHSIE). The latter role, she said, provided invaluable connections to help form an interprofessional team.

Dr. Travis Nelson
Dr. Travis Nelson

In addition to Shoreline Community College, EchoTrain partners include the Seattle nonprofit Arcora Foundation (formerly the Washington Dental Service Foundation), a longtime advocate of early childhood oral health. Dr. Kim also serves as principal investigator of an Access to Baby and Child Dentistry grant through Arcora and the Washington state Health Care Authority. ABCD, another oral pediatric health program, is a key element that helped crystallize the HRSA grant. EchoTrain will also collaborate with the dental hygiene program at Eastern Washington University (EWU), a key partner in the RIDE program.

Training will begin in March for UW pre-doctoral dental students, with the rest of the training to begin in July.

“We’ll be teaching dental students what hygienists can do, including restorative and preventive care, and how to work effectively with them,” Rothen said. Other than RIDE dental students, who take classes alongside dental hygiene students at EWU in Spokane, many aren’t fully aware of this until they enter practice, she said.

Marilynn Rothen
Marilynn Rothen

While UW dental students already study and practice pediatric dentistry, EchoTrain will enhance their training through new videos, learning modules, and units on cultural competence, interprofessional team care, and childhood obesity prevention. Additional community-based pediatric clinical rotations are planned as well.

Shoreline dental hygiene students already serve rotations at School of Dentistry clinics, Rothen noted, but don’t usually have an opportunity to work with children during their training. EchoTrain will fill in that gap.

That’s an important consideration, the EchoTrain leaders said, because studies show that if providers don’t treat children during their training, they’re much less likely to do so after entering practice.

“It’s important to teach dental students to figure out what’s doable without general anesthesia,” Dr. Roberts said. EchoTrain, he said, will also educate students on another key skill: patient and caregiver management.

Dr. Kim will collaborate with outreach programs at the UW School of Dentistry to explore providing care for children at sites such as Mary’s Place, a Seattle shelter for homeless women, children, and families. Dental faculty and students already furnish care to clients of Mary’s Place and similar sites with a current focus on adults.

In addition, Dr. Michelle Averill of the UW’s School of Public Health faculty is developing learning modules to show students how to present nutrition information to children and families. Students will learn counseling skills and how to take body mass index readings, and they’ll learn how to do focused interventions, Dr. Kim said.

School of Dentistry faculty members Dr. Donald Chi and Dr. Douglass Jackson will also help provide material on cultural competence and social determinants of health. This information will help students better recognize when children are at heightened risk for poor oral health, Dr. Kim said.

EchoTrain will also feature extensive evaluation and feedback throughout training, with evaluation metrics developed by Dr. Pam Nagasawa of the Department of Biomedical Informatics & Medical Education at the UW School of Medicine. Dr. Teresa O’Sullivan of the UW School of Pharmacy faculty will oversee their implementation.