Good oral health contributes to an individual’s overall health and quality of life: inadequate dental care has been correlated with lower socio-economic status and has been shown to exacerbate chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Despite its importance, access to oral health care and dental services is a challenge for uninsured and underinsured, lower-income individuals and their families, resulting in poorer oral health and the associated consequences. Safety net oral health facilities help address this disparity and health gap by offering free or low-cost dental services to these vulnerable populations. Below, you will find Americares programming that supports safety net oral health facilities. You will also find tools and resources on developing and improving an oral health access program
Americares first Oral Health Project began in September 2016 with the goals of improving the delivery of oral health education to low-literacy patients, addressing the gap in dental care access for low income patients, and improving overall health by preventing the broader impacts of poor oral health. Americares U.S. Program partnered with The Institute for Healthcare Advancement (IHA) in a year-long oral health education initiative implemented in both primary care free and charitable clinics (FCCs) and charitable dental clinic settings. The project utilized the IHA’s “What to Do for Healthy Teeth” book, an easy-to-follow, simply-written guide that covers a full range of oral health topics. Americares and IHA developed a customized Master “Train the Trainer” webinar series on integrating IHA’s book into oral health education for patients seeking care at FCCs. In addition to giving this online training to 30 clinic staff members and providing each clinic with the educational books, the 15 participating clinics received free donations of dental hygiene items from Americares to support the efforts. Overall, the master trainers’ knowledge of oral health in low-literacy settings improved by 40%, 90% of the trainers felt confident that they could effectively educate patients, and 76% of the master trainers indicated that the patients thought the “What to Do for Healthy Teeth” book they received would benefit their oral health. The project demonstrated successful ways of providing dental education through consideration of patients’ economic, literacy, and oral health needs. Click here to read more about the program and its outcomes.
Americares launched the Charitable Dental Clinic Leadership Institute (CDCLI) in October of 2018 to improve access to high-quality charitable dental services. CDCLI is the first continuing education program of its kind – aimed at equipping the next generation of leaders to build and manage high-performing charitable dental clinics and programs across the United States. We selected five “exemplary” charitable dental clinics to serve as models for how smaller dental clinics, or free clinics that offer a dental practice, can elevate their programs from “good to great.” Ten dental program leaders who are committed to expanding their organizations’ capacity and impact learn from the exemplary clinics, consultants, and each other through in-person and online events as well as through resource sharing. Stakeholders and participants in CDCLI will work with each individual program to address its own challenges, growth opportunities, and needs. Ultimately, CDCLI will increase the quality and reach of charitable dental services, allowing more uninsured and underinsured individuals to receive quality oral health care. Click here to read more about the program and its outcomes.