In 2010, a year after Massachusetts’ then-Governor Deval Patrick initiated a public health dental hygienist (PHDH) category of dental professionals with Chapter 530 of the Acts of 2008, Cathy Grinham (shown) realized it could help fulfill her professional mission.
“It is with underserved populations that I find my calling,” said the Assonet, Massachusetts dental professional, explaining that throughout her career she has always chosen to work in practices that accept MassHealth, the Massachusetts Medicaid program.
Chapter 530 enables dental hygienists with at least three years of full-time clinical experience to work in a collaborative agreement with a licensed dentist, yet run their own “practice in a public health setting” and be “directly reimbursed for services administered in a public health setting by MassHealth or the commonwealth care health insurance program.”
(Think residences of the homebound; schools; nursing homes and long-term care facilities; clinics, hospitals, medical facilities, community health centers and mobile and portable dental health programs licensed or certified by the department of public health.)
“I applied for a grant that was available from UMass Memorial Hospital and was one of the first six PHDSs in Massachusetts,” said Grinham.
“It was tough going at first, as no one understood the concept. We had to educate potential clients as to what we could do for their program. Slowly, as a group we are making headway. Owning your own dental hygiene practice is very different than being a dental hygienist, Many, many hours of business development went into startup.”
What followed led Grinham to her role today as the Executive Director of the Visiting Dental Associates of MA LLC, a group of dedicated dental professionals providing dental services to those who may not have access to care.
“I wanted to share my knowledge with the Public Health Dental Hygienists coming after me, so I created Visiting Dental Associates of MA LLC. There, other Public Health Dental Hygienists can have all their business needs addressed, such as website, 800 number, professional email, practice management software, forms, group purchasing power, contacts, camaraderie and more,” she said.
The 53-year-old wife and mom of three grown children (Colleen, 28, Andrew, 25, Keleigh, 23) who she taught to give back to their world on a daily basis now offers the same advice to colleagues in her field:
“I think that if there is a problem, you might just be the one with the solution. Put it out there, try different things. You have a skill, feel great about that skill and find where you can add value to lives of others, it will enrich your own tenfold,” said Grinham.
She speaks from years of experience, most recently creating a patented system to make portable a panoramic radiograph that she hopes to bring to other states and share with as many people as possible.
“So many older folks cannot tell you when they have dental pain, and it may have been many years since they had been to the dentist before they came into skilled nursing home care. As age takes over, many cannot tolerate intraoral radiographs due to small stature, fear of choking, inability to follow simple direction,” said Grinham.
“I have developed a system to make this portable: a pan unit I can bring directly into facilities, with fantastic quality radiographs. A dentist reads the films, and many more people can be diagnosed using this system than had been before. I feel so pleased to provide a greatly needed service.”
Grinham credits the support from her husband, and her dental supply distributor, as vital to her process.
“I have a wonderful husband of 30 years who supports my crazy ideas… and I could not have done it without Benco Dental. My practice would not be where it is today without their support.”
To learn more, contact Cathy Grinham RDH at Visiting Dental Associates of Massachusetts: https://vdaofma.com/index.html