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Idaho State University Department of Dental Hygiene goes on the road

November 12, 2019

Four dental hygiene students with portable units for providing care.
Students in Idaho State University's dental hygiene program carry equipment in portable cases in preparation for Bengal Smiles for Life, a teledentistry program.

Bengals Smile for Life - Bringing Oral Health Care to You!

POCATELLO – Idaho State University’s Department of Dental Hygiene has received a $224,000 subgrant from the Idaho Oral Health Program to expand oral health programs in shortage areas, promote oral health to Idaho youth and conduct a statewide oral health workforce assessment.

The Idaho Oral Health Program is in the Division of Public Health, within the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare The funding comes from a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant.

The grant’s detailed objectives are:  

• Develop programs or expand oral health services or facilities in dental health professional shortage areas employing the use of teledentistry, and using silver diamine fluoride.

• Promote oral health and other science professions to Idaho youth.

• Conduct a statewide oral health workforce assessment in collaboration with the Idaho State Dental Association, Idaho State Dental Hygienists’ Association, and other partners.

The ISU Department of Dental Hygiene will help meet the first objective with the Bengal Smiles for Life program. This project consists of two phases, program development and implementation, that extend through August 2020, with the possibility of extending to August 2021 with additional funding. The Bengal Smiles for Life program seeks to address the oral health needs of vulnerable populations throughout their lifespan with the use of teledentistry technology. More specifically, this program will offer preventive dental hygiene services as well as the application of silver diamine fluoride.

The Department of Dental Hygiene is beginning its first implementation of the Bengal Smiles for Life program at Caring Hearts Assisted Living in Pocatello. Oral health services are provided by ISU dental hygiene students, supervised by faculty members using portable dental equipment.  Daryl Bybee is serving as the supervising dentist for the teledentistry exams. The Bengal Smiles for Life program will be onsite at Caring Hearts continuously throughout the school year. Furthermore, two additional sites will be identified for implementation of this program within the next year.

The benefits of such a program are two-fold. The work provides hands-on training for students while also helping to prevent and stop dental diseases for individuals of all ages.

“This grant provides an excellent opportunity for ISU to have a positive impact on the oral health needs of individuals with limited access to oral health care while providing high quality learning experiences with teledentistry for dental hygiene students,” said Jacque Freudenthal, chair for the Department of Dental Hygiene and principal investigator of the grant.

The Bengal Smiles for Life grant team includes Freudenthal, project manager Rachelle Williams, Ellen Rogo, JoAnn Gurenlian, Colleen Stephenson, Jessica August, Leciel Bono and Kandis Garland.

In addition to the HRSA subgrant, faculty in the Department of Dental Hygiene also received a grant from the American Dental Hygienists' Association Institute of Oral Health in the amount of $5,000. This grant will help fund research investigating the use of CliftonStrengths Assessment to enhance the professional development of dental hygiene students. New workforce models require dental hygienists to provide oral health care in alternative settings and integrated health care systems.

Professional development is key to preparing future graduates to be primary care providers within these new workforce models. Helping students recognize personal strengths and apply individual strengths through educational activities such as interprofessional learning is essential for this professional development. Additional exploration of a conceptual model to guide professional development in dental hygiene curriculum is being investigated. Students will complete the CliftonStrengths Assessment, learn about top strengths and how to leverage these strengths to be successful oral health professionals.

The CliftonStrengths grant team includes Principal Investigator Leciel Bono, August, Gurenlian, Stephenson and Williams.

“It is the goal of the Department of Dental Hygiene to provide global leadership and scholarship to educate dental hygienists who will improve the quality of health for diverse populations by advancing the delivery systems and science of dental hygiene,” Freudenthal said.  

The Department of Dental Hygiene at ISU trains and prepares approximately 32 hygienists per year for careers in the rapidly growing dental hygiene field. For information on the Dental Hygiene Program email Jennifer Sterbentz at kentjen3@isu.edu or call (208) 282-3796.





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