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 are only widening in the face of 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, scaling innovations, and developing new models of patient-centered and outcome-oriented care, 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:

The COVID-19 pandemic is having significant impacts on the oral health care delivery system. Common preventive and restorative procedures aerosolize the virus, putting patients at risk as well as staff. Dental hygienists are ranked among highest exposure to risk professions relative to COVID-19. And loss of income and employer-sponsored insurance will decrease access to care; safety net practices that provide more affordable care to the uninsured, and private practices that treat Medicaid participants, could close or stop seeing those patients.

However, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, 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. This shifting environment requires adjustments to existing strategies and presents a level of opportunity.

As such, our current focus includes:

  • Supporting the North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative in its work to convene stakeholders for shared learning and alignment building, advance system changes that promote affordable, accessible oral health care, and create peer connections and learning opportunities for oral health care providers.
  • Understanding the impact of policy changes and providing support to scale implementation particularly in the safety net, such as investing in startup and evaluation efforts of new models of care including teledentistry.
  • Supporting identification of sustainable business models for safety net clinics in a new COVID-19 practice environment.

More on this Issue

Contact Us

Katie Eyes
Vice President, Program and Strategy



Funding Opportunity

We are offering limited grants (up to $60,000) for safety net clinics that are opening new access points.

Facing New Realities in Oral Health

By: Brady Blackburn, NC Oral Health Collaborative

The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating much needed innovations in oral health care delivery in North Carolina.  

Improving Oral Health in the Carolinas is Aim of New $35 Million Commitment

September 19, 2019 – Blue Cross NC Foundation joins The Duke Endowment and the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation to support range of new approaches.