In 2000, the first-ever Surgeon General’s report on oral health documented widespread disparities in oral health and access to oral health care among Americans. The report also drew attention to the important connection between oral health and overall health. Although the oral health of most Americans has improved dramatically in recent decades, several high-profile, tragic, unnecessary deaths of children to preventable dental problems make clear that a significant portion of the population still has persistent, unmet oral health needs. Racial and ethnic minorities, rural populations, the developmentally disabled, young children, and pregnant women are just some of the vulnerable populations in need of improved access to oral health care.
NASHP’s work on oral health includes:
• State oral health policy and infrastructure, particularly under Medicaid;
• State strategies for improving access to care for young children and other vulnerable populations; and
• State experience with workforce and scope of practice issues, especially with regard to emerging alternative dental providers.
With the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts, NASHP is currently researching state efforts to engage primary care medical providers in children’s oral health by, for example, reimbursing these providers for preventive services such as fluoride varnish application under Medicaid. NASHP also is collaborating with leading organizations (e.g. the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors, and the Medicaid/SCHIP Dental Association) on the Children’s Dental Health Project’s National Oral Health Policy Center, which seeks to promote a better understanding of effective policy options to address disparities in children’s oral health.