Building sustainable, preventive oral health programs

In 2012, Oral Health Colorado (OHCO) and the DentaQuest Foundation combined resources, with support from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) to develop a toolkit that encourages communities to establish sustainable preventive oral health programs in their schools, and to develop relationships with dental providers and community organizations that will assure dental homes for children.

The easy-to-use Smart Mouths Smart Kids (SMSK) Toolkit offered on this website is the culmination of these efforts and seeks to encourage Colorado communities to achieve health equity for disparate populations across the state.  Data cited in both Chew on This, the oral health burden document released by CDPHE and the Colorado Oral Health Plan released by OHCO, indicate that there are serious oral health inequities experienced by Colorado’s low-income, rural, disabled and minority children.  It makes sense to try to eliminate health barriers and endemic health inequities by providing services in an environment where children feel comfortable and safe ,and are accessible to providers – the public schools.

Including a focus on health equity

Knowing that in Colorado, and throughout the nation, there are serious health inequities (and often, particularly oral health inequities) throughout low-income, rural, disabled and minority communities, the SMSK Toolkit strongly urges users to keep a focus on health equity at the top of mind when planning to initiate preventive oral health care in the schools.

The Oral Health Progress and Equity Network (OPEN) defines health equity as the attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Achieving health equity requires:

  • Valuing everyone equally
  • Focusing on societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities
  • Recognizing and rectifying historical injustices
  • Addressing contemporary injustices
  • Eliminating health and healthcare disparities, and
  • Assuring structural and personal conditions are in place to support optimal health.

(Adapted from Healthy People 2020 and Dr. Camara Jones)

OPEN has developed a Health Equity Toolkit that is available to all OPEN members.  Go to their online collaborative platform, www.oralhealth.network to join OPEN and explore the resources for helping to develop health equity in your community.  The health of future generations depends on achieving equity in all aspects of health care.

About the Toolkit

  • OHCO developed the SMSK Toolkit with a variety of audiences in mind:  dental and medical professionals, school nurses, teachers and administrators, dental and medical educators, parents and stakeholders, and partners.
  • The toolkit helps potential partners assess the feasibility of initiating school-linked preventive oral health services and to design and build an oral health program that will be sustainable within a short period of time.
  • The SMSK oral health data collection tool (a targeted and focused electronic dental record) is easily used on a tablet, laptop or personal computer. The Data Collection Tool (DCT) will allow surveillance of children’s oral health status over time, giving providers, schools and CDPHE much-needed longitudinal data.
  • All aspects of the SMSK toolkit are available at no charge, excluding DCT hardware. You are invited to read through the toolkit and determine how you might undertake the process of building a sustainable model of in-school preventive oral health care in your community.

See data for the state from our pilot communities.

Learn more about oral health at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Learn more about the DentaQuest Partnership.

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