Oral Health Challenge Spreads Awareness to Educators and Providers

In February 2021, for National Children’s Dental Month, the Oral Health Challenge was led by Dr. Deborah Mattheus, PhD, APRN-Rx, CPNP, senior practice director and dental sealant program director. Hawaii Keiki (HK) nurses and dental hygienist, and UH Manoa Nursing faculty were invited to participate in this innovative initiative that focused on increasing the oral health knowledge of health care educators and providers.

Michelle Chapman hawaii keiki with toothbrushesThe HK challenge team had a total of 12 nurses and dental hygienist that participated by completing at least one of the Smiles for Life Courses. These courses are part of a national oral health curriculum originally developed by the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Group on Oral Health and is currently in its 4th edition released in 2020. Smiles for Life is now the nation’s most comprehensive and widely used oral health curriculum for primary care clinicians and is endorsed by 20 national organizations including the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the National Association of School Nurses.

A total of 50 courses were completed by the HK challenge team with some staff completing all 8 courses covering topics such as: the relationship of oral and systemic health; child oral health; adult oral health; acute dental problems; pregnancy and women’s oral health; caries risk assessment, fluoride varnish and counseling; the oral examination; and geriatric oral health.

All HK staff that participated by completing at least one course received a bag of toothbrushes for their school-based clinic. In a fun giveaway contest challenging educators and providers to complete all 8 courses, Hawaii Keiki pediatric nurse practitioner serving the Pearl City-Waipahu Complex Area Michelle Chapman, MSN, APRN-Rx, CPNP-PC and assistant professor Gary Glauberman, PhD, RN, PHNA-BC, NHDP-BC, each won an Amazon gift card.

“The modules were great in showing exactly how much more we can and should be doing in primary care,” said Chapman. “I actually never learned about the white lines being early signs of cavities, so that was new for me. I initially thought when I was going to do the modules, I would just do the ones geared for pediatrics, but since I learned so much through those, I decided it couldn’t hurt to do them all to educate myself for my own oral care as well as for an aging parent and I am glad I did. I found them all very educational and recommend watching the courses even if it isn’t in your primary specialty.”

This initiative is part of Mattheus’ work as the Hawaii Oral Health Champion supported by the Center for Integration of Primary Care and Oral Health (CIPCOH) which serves as a national resource for systems-level research on oral health integration into primary care training. For more information, contact Deborah Mattheus at

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