Oral Health

Our goal within this priority area is that everyone in North Carolina has access to quality, affordable oral health services.

Overall Perspective

Oral health is essential to overall health. Poor oral health lowers quality of life and school performance, decreases employment opportunities, can impact a range of chronic diseases, and leads to significant, and avoidable, health care costs.

The current design and components of our oral health system – as they relate to cost, access to care, and workforce regulations – have contributed to pronounced and growing inequities by geography, race, and income. And these inequities only widened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Making preventive oral health services more accessible and affordable is critical to achieving substantial improvements in oral health outcomes. By increasing data transparency and disaggregation to identify priorities, increasing the capacity of the system, developing new models of patient-centered and outcome-oriented care, and learning from and scaling innovations, we have significant opportunities for eliminating inequities and reducing the burden of disease.

Strategic Approach and Current Focus

For these efforts to be successful, we need to engage more stakeholders as advocates to create a policy and practice environment where good oral health is achievable for everyone in North Carolina. Our approach includes building leadership capacity to advocate for change among stakeholders of all types – including elevating the wisdom and experience of those without meaningful access to care today, and ensuring access to data to inform priorities for change. Maintaining and leveraging existing momentum to build broad support for systemic changes is, and will remain, a core focus of our work.

Specifically, our objectives are to:

  • Support a network of organizations to identify and achieve system-level changes that will increase access to, and affordability of, care
  • Support the spread of school-based oral health models to increase equitable access to care in communities across North Carolina.
  • Develop and strengthen safety net access points

COVID-19 had significant impacts on the oral health care delivery system. However, in response to the challenges of the pandemic, there have been several policy changes that have the potential to increase access to different types of care. There is heightened interest in new delivery models, such as teledentistry, and greater interest in reforming workforce policy and spreading new models of care.

Examples of our recent work includes:

  • Partnering with the North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative to convene and build the capacity of stakeholders to achieve a shared policy agenda and to deliver continuing education to safety net providers focused on approaches that support the shift to value.
  • Creating more opportunities to center the experience of Black, Latino, American Indian, and rural communities in the development of policy and practice change goals.
  • Providing planning grants as part of our co-funded school-based oral health initiative with a focus on sites in predominantly rural counties with limited access.
  • Supporting new or expanded access at safety net dental clinics through an ongoing funding opportunity.

In More Detail

View our Oral Health Dashboard for a visual summary of key components of our work in this focus area.

More on this Issue

Contact Us

Daijah Davis
Program Officer

Funding Opportunity

We are offering limited grants (up to $80,000) for safety net clinics that are opening new access points.