Poor oral health afflicts many low-income and other vulnerable populations. Lack of access to oral health can lead to unnecessary tooth decay, periodontal disease, pain, and the advancement of oral cancer. The absence of preventive care often leads to unnecessary and expensive visits to hospital-based emergency departments to address the pain of dental disease but not the causal conditions. The consequences on inequitable access to dental care are significant for individuals, families and communities. The OHICAN pilot project looked to address the lack of equitable access to care by creating new points of access, training medical providers to perform oral exams and apply fluoride when indicated, thus increasing the oral health workforce, utilizing technology to bridge clinical practice, education, training and research, educating stakeholders to allow dental hygienists to provide preventive care under general supervision, and creating business models that will assist others who seek to create a dental home for those they serve. Social, political and economic forces all contribute to varying degrees in terms of equity in healthcare. The work of OHICAN was designed to create a blueprint for potential solutions to these issues in order to foster oral health equity. Changes to improve access to dental care can take place in a relatively short period of time when all who care and are impacted by this continued unmet oral health need work together.
Part of the book: Leading Community Based Changes in the Culture of Health in the US