Honor Awards: Oregon Public Health Hygienist Works to Ensure All Smiles Are Healthy

Virginia with one of the many drawings she receives from students at schools.

A recipient of the 2023 Today’s RDH Honor Awards, Virginia Mattfeld, RDH, EPDH, BSDH, is a team member at the nonprofit All Smiles Community Oral Health (ASCOH), where she conducts free dental screenings, fluoride varnish treatment, and dental sealants for students in elementary and middle schools in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area. Sharing community outreach efforts with team members at ASCOH, Virginia also provides screenings and fluoride varnish treatments for pre-kindergarten, Head Start, and children in home-based programs.

Robin Moody, the executive director of ASCOH, nominated Virginia for the 2023 Today’s RDH Honor Awards. Virginia completed 842 dental screenings during the 2022-2023 school year, and Robin said Virginia has been “vocal in urging All Smiles to work within our care coordination department to seek out more opportunities for care for the increasing number of children we see with autism spectrum disorder.”

Virginia’s work in public health was a challenge when schools and dental offices shut down due to the pandemic. “Every school was closed,” she recalls. “I literally lost all my work overnight. I knew it was still so important for children to continue to get dental care in some way, so I reached out to the office to see if I could at least provide oral health education virtually.”

She obtained permission to set up oral health education via teledentistry. Virginia developed oral health education lesson plans for preschoolers, coordinating with health organizations to “deliver the lesson plans virtually to children and their caregivers in their homes, and it was a big success.”

When schools and dental offices began reopening, Virginia was on the front lines, working with others to safely provide dental services under COVID-19 protocols.

“Even our glass ionomer and new workflow training had to be administered outdoors,” she said. “Everything changed, but it taught us how to be flexible and patient with ourselves and each other. There were many unknowns, but I stayed positive and focused on finding a way to care for our patients wherever they were.”

In addition to Virginia’s work with ASCOH, she operates a dental hygiene practice called Healthy Smiles NW treating adults and children on the Medicaid Oregon Health Plan. Her expanded practice permit allows her to offer various preventive services to the community, and if she sees something suspicious that needs further evaluation, she assists with locating a dental provider for next-level care.

Virginia said, “I learned about the advanced practitioner in dental hygiene school and knew this was the direction I wanted to go someday because it would give me the autonomy to provide services independently, and I could help more people in need who otherwise would not have access to preventive oral health care. In 1997, Oregon established the limited access permit, allowing dental hygienists to provide dental hygiene services to patients with limited access without the supervision of a dentist. In 2011, the name of the limited access permit was changed to the expanded practice permit. In December 2012, I established an independent practice, Healthy Smiles NW, in the Portland Metro.”

Virginia also participates in outreach events with Moda Health and the Portland Trail Blazers organization, such as the Rip City Rally. She recalls, “The Rip City Rally is a fun engagement event where we travel across Oregon to five different towns, educating students about making healthy choices, being active, and staying in school. In each town, the community event continues in the afternoon at the Rip City Fair, where I work the Oregon Dental Service booth, engaging with families with the spin the wheel with true or false dental questions. I love seeing their reactions when they learn fun dental facts.”

Through Moda Health/Oregon Dental Service, Virginia provides teledentistry or home visits to foster children once they are placed with a foster family.

Beyond her roles in public health, Virginia is an adjunct instructor teaching radiology at Mt. Hood Community College’s dental hygiene program. She also presents at Clark College’s dental hygiene program, sharing her experiences in public health as an expanded practice dental hygienist with dental hygiene students.

On another note, Robin said, “Virginia is a member of the Choctaw Nation tribe of Oklahoma and has been open about her family’s struggles growing up low-income and accessing health care. This has contributed to her unparalleled compassion for her patients and her lifelong commitment to community service. She has recently started volunteering with efforts to bring attention to the high number of missing and murdered Native American women.”

Virginia, who has been on several international dental mission trips as a volunteer, has been married for almost 40 years to her husband, Eric. The couple have two adult daughters, Danielle and Emily.

A big thank you to Dentsply Sirona, Designs for Vision, and LM-Dental for their support of the Honor Awards and providing equipment to the recipients!