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The NCOHF Oral Health Zone

Oct. 1, 2010
Students at the University of California – San Francisco's School of Dentistry – know firsthand the importance of early intervention and education ...

A community response to a national crisis

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: children's oral health, pediatric dentistry, childhood caries.

Students at the University of California – San Francisco's School of Dentistry – know firsthand the importance of early intervention and education in reducing the risk of childhood caries. In 2008, USCF received funding as a member of the National Children's Oral Health Foundation: America's Toothfairy® Affiliate network to launch a community-wide initiative in response to our nation's pediatric oral health crisis. Through the NCOHF Oral Health Zone program, UCSF students are working with area allied health professionals and children's advocates to combat pediatric dental disease among the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations.

NCOHF Oral Health Zones draw on the inextricable link between oral and systemic health to employ community-based solutions that extend beyond the oral health-care field, in a collaborative effort to eliminate America's most common chronic childhood illness. Serving as a national program model, the Bay Area OHZ is engaging primary care physicians, pediatric medicine residents, and nurse practitioner students in hands-on interprofessional training programs to increase access to preventive oral healthcare for at-risk children in community health settings.

UCSF staff provide training on fluoride varnish application, integrating basic oral screenings into routine physical exams, and making appropriate referrals when dental disease is detected. Allied health professionals also receive instruction on delivering oral health and disease prevention education programs in order to improve oral health literacy among the underserved families they encounter. Outcome assessment of the program effectiveness has also been conducted during the process.

Brent Lin, DMD, director of the UCSF Predoctoral Pediatric Dentistry Program, says, "As an NCOHF Oral Health Zone, we are able to do numerous outreach activities with our students and residents to care for children in the underserved communities. In addition to providing dental health training for primary care providers and nurse practitioners in areas where access to dental care or preventive programs is difficult, NCOHF emphasizes providing preventive oral health education to pregnant women and young mothers so that good oral health for children can start very early."

To promote maternal oral health in the Bay Area, UCSF held an oral health education and dental screening program specialized for pregnant women and young mothers. Students also participated in 12 community health fairs throughout San Francisco in 2009 as an OHZ outreach component, providing oral health education and dental screenings to more than 1,200 children in underserved areas. Through other programs with community partners such as Head Start and Early Head Start, Boys and Girls Clubs, and local school districts, the Bay Area OHZ provided dental screenings and oral health education to thousands of children in 2009.

NCOHF was launched in 2006 with a mission to eliminate pediatric dental disease through innovative preventive and educational-focused programs like the Oral Health Zone. By providing funding, donated dental products, and technical resources to a national Affiliate network of nonprofit oral health centers, NCOHF has already helped more than one million underserved children receive comprehensive care.

Dr. Lin says, "NCOHF has proven to us repeatedly that it is committed to eliminate dental disease and promote oral health among the most vulnerable children by supporting any initiative with an ultimate emphasis on preventive dental care and oral health education for children and their families."

NCOHF President and CEO, Fern Ingber notes, "As our nation's health-care system faces harsh economic realities, nonprofit health-care facilities like those in the NCOHF Affiliate network are even more indispensable in the fight to eliminate pediatric dental disease. We know with ongoing financial and product support from NCOHF, Affiliate partners like UCSF can expand their humanitarian efforts to ensure all American children have access to the quality oral health care they deserve."

For more information about the NCOHF, please visit www.AmericasToothfairy.org.

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