The U.S. Virgin Islands Dental Association (VIDA) this week partnered with the American Dental Association (ADA) to convene the U.S. Virgin Islands Oral Health Care Summit, which featured Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and other elected officials to build upon existing oral health initiatives and address the territory’s oral health care needs.
ADA President Dr. Jeffrey Cole and VIDA leadership led a discussion among dentists and oral health care professionals around critical issues of removing barriers to dental care within the territory.
“We are proud to work closely with elected officials and a committed group of dentists to improve oral health for U.S Virgin Islanders,” said Dr. Cole. “Over the past several months, the ADA and VIDA have formulated an oral health care plan for the territory that VIDA dentists are ready to initiate. No one is more dedicated than Virgin Islands dentists, hygienists and other dental staff to see all Virgin Islanders free of dental decay and pain. This summit was a necessary step to begin moving forward on this strategic plan.”
Cole also met with Gov. Bryan Jr. and health officials in his administration to discuss aspects of the proposed plan, which includes reforms to the V.I. Medical Assistance Program (VIMAP), enhanced dental education and the establishment of training programs for additional members of the dental care team.
“My administration is deeply committed to the health of all Virgin Islanders, and good oral health is critical to that,” said Bryan. “I appreciate President Cole and all of the Virgin Islands dentists and elected officials who attended the summit to help us redouble our efforts to improve dental health in the territory.”
A centerpiece of the plan calls for a training program for Community Dental Health Coordinators (CDHCs) at the University of the Virgin Islands. CDHCs work directly with patients in the community to navigate the oral healthcare system and ensure they are receiving the care they need. Serving as an integrated member of the dental team, CDHCs are proven to have a positive impact on both patients and dental practices across the U.S.
The plan also calls for reopening the public dental clinics, as is expected by the Virgin Islands Department of Health, increasing funding for dental services under MAP to increase the number of participating dentists and to reestablish a territorial dental officer in the Department of Health.
“We need a multifaceted approach based on education, prevention, financing and innovative delivery to improve oral health for our most vulnerable,” said Dr. Sonia Taylor-Griffith, who practices on both St. Croix and St. Thomas. “We appreciate Dr. Cole and the ADA for affording us this opportunity to share our ideas and concerns as it relates to oral health in the territory and providing a framework to begin working towards solutions as discussed at the Oral Health Summit.”
The summit provided a platform for dentists to talk directly with legislators about solutions to patients’ oral health needs and paved a path to continue working together on policy that addresses the ability to reach more patients and improve dental health on the Island.
The Virgin Islands Dental Association is the non-profit organization representing organized dentistry in the U.S. Virgin Islands. VIDA is committed to the success of its members in service to their patients and the publics. VIDA contributes to the oral health of Virgin Islanders through various programs and advocacy. It is part of the American Dental Association, the nation’s largest dental association, representing 163,000 member dentists. It is the leading source of oral health information.