Children with special health care needs (SHCNs) live in all communities. They present with a diverse group of diagnoses including complex chronic conditions and diseases; physical, developmental, and intellectual disabilities; sensory, behavioral, emotional, psychiatric, and social disorders; cleft and craniofacial congenital disabilities, anomalies, and syndromes; and inherited conditions causing abnormal growth, development, and health of the oral tissues, the teeth, the jaws, and the craniofacial skeleton. Tooth decay, gum disease, dental injuries, tooth misalignment, oral infections, and other oral abnormalities are commonly seen or reported in the health history of children with SHCNs. Nationally, dental and oral health care ranks as the second most common unmet health need, according to the most recent National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. The State of Minnesota does not have enough dental professionals prepared to meet the demand for care. As a result, children with SHCNs either go untreated or receive inadequate services resulting in treatment delays, the need for additional appointments, poor management of oral pain and dysfunction, adverse dental treatment outcomes and/or a lack of appropriate referrals to needed specialists. Research suggests children with SHCNs are best served when assigned to dental homes where all aspects of their oral health care are delivered in a comprehensive, interdisciplinary, and family-centered way under the direction of knowledgeable, experienced dental professionals working collaboratively with an array of allied health, medical professionals, and community partners. An interdisciplinary team consisting of a pediatric dentist, pediatric physician, and speech-language pathology innovator collaborated to advance current and future dental providers’ knowledge and comfort in providing care for children with SHCNs and was accepted into the Clinical Scholars program. Their interdisciplinary collaborative team project was named MinnieMouths and included the following six methods or critical endeavors to ensure success: 1. Development of a project ECHO site focused on advancing care for children with SHCNs. 2. Creation of a 28-participant web-based professional network of current dental, community health liaisons, family navigators, and medical health providers. 3. Establishment of a 32-participant web-based interface of dental and medical students and residents, including new-to-practice dental providers. 4. Launching an annual conference focused on advancing oral health care for children with SHCN. 5. Build a toolkit aimed at allowing dentists and future leadership teams to launch dental home networks focused on children with SHCN. 6. Building a Dental Homes Network Field Guide for Providers who attended our first in-person conference. Findings from the MinnieMouths project suggest that development of peer networks to advance dental homes for children with SHCNs has merit. Network participants gained skills in collaborating with a range of health care providers, understanding the complexities of working within and among health and dental care systems to coordinate care, and the need to better understand and advocate for a more robust medical and dental reimbursement program when launching dental homes for children with SHCN.
Part of the book: Leading Community Based Changes in the Culture of Health in the US