This report focuses on nine oral health innovations seeking to increase access to preventive oral health care in nondental settings. Two additional reports in this series describe the remaining programs that provide care in dental settings and care to young children. The nine innovations described here integrate service delivery and workforce models in order to reduce or eliminate socioeconomic, geographic, and cultural barriers to care. Although the programs are diverse in their approaches as well as in the specific characteristics of the communities they serve, a common factor among them is the implementation of multiple strategies to increase the number of children from low-income families who access preventive care, and also to engage families and communities in investing in and prioritizing oral health.
For low-income children and their families, the barriers that must be addressed to increase access to preventive oral health care are numerous. For example, even children covered by public insurance programs face a shortage of dentists that accept Medicaid and who specialize in pediatric dentistry. The effects of poverty intersect with other barriers such as living in remote geographic areas and having a community-wide history of poor access to dental care in populations such as recent immigrants. Overcoming these barriers requires creative strategies that address transportation barriers, establish welcoming environments for oral health care, and are linguistically and culturally relevant. Each of these nine programs is based on such strategies, including:
-Expanding the dental workforce through training new types of providers or adding new providers to the workforce toincrease reach and community presence;
-Implementing new strategies to increase the cost-effectiveness of care so that more oral health care services are available and accessible;
-Providing training and technical assistance that increase opportunities for and competence in delivering oral health education and care to children;
-Offering oral health care services in existing, familiar community venues such as schools, Head Start programs and senior centers;
-Developing creative service delivery models that address transportation and cultural barriers as well as the fear and stigma associated with dental care that may arise in communities with historically poor access.
The findings from the EAs of these programs are synthesized to highlight diverse and innovative strategies for overcoming barriers to access. These strategies have potential for rigorous evaluation and could emerge as best practices. If proven effective, these innovative program elements could then be disseminated and replicated to increase access for populations in need of preventive oral health care.