Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood — more common than asthma — and it’s almost 100 percent preventable. Tooth pain causes uninsured adults to seek temporary relief in emergency departments and children to miss school at rates that impact achievement. Aside from the pain caused by disease, poor oral health impacts overall systemic health and has been linked to adverse and costly outcomes for other chronic conditions. Research finds that periodontal disease and oral infection is linked to poorer outcomes and higher cost for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and pregnancy among many other conditions. Not surprisingly, the burden of poor oral health is concentrated in underserved and low-income populations.
Strategy: Oral Health
The Foundation first prioritized a focus on oral health in 2009. Our current strategy emphasizes the importance of oral health literacy, access to preventive care, and access to timely and affordable treatment to reduce the pain and cost associated with delayed care for painful, yet preventable decay. This strategy recognizes that good oral health begins even before a child gets his or her first tooth, and is focused on preventing decay at the youngest ages while increasing access to dental homes to treat disease where it already exists. With a focus on increasing access to safety net dental homes that serve low-income populations, increasing awareness of the importance of prevention at the earliest ages and supporting public health leadership in the field of oral health, we aim to reduce disparities in oral health outcomes while reducing the overall burden of disease.