California Crafts Statewide Plan to Improve Oral Health

Dentistry Today


California faces multiple crises when it comes to oral health, reports the state’s Department of Public Health. For example, 54% of kindergartners and 70% of third graders have experienced dental caries. In 2012, tooth loss ranged from 14% among 18- to 24-year-olds to 68% among adults age 65 and older. And overall, California is not on track to achieve many of its Healthy People 2020 national goals and objectives.

With an eye on improving these metrics as well as many others, the department has developed the California Oral Health Plan 2018-2028. It identifies five key goals for improving oral health and achieving oral health equity for all Californians:

  • Addressing the determinants of health and promoting healthy habits and population-based prevention interventions to attain healthier status in communities
  • Aligning the dental healthcare delivery system, payment systems, and community programs to support and sustain community-clinical linkages for increasing the utilization of dental services
  • Collaborating with payers, public health programs, healthcare systems, foundations, professional organizations, and educational institutions to expand infrastructure, capacity, and payment systems for supporting prevention and early treatment services
  • Developing and implementing communication strategies to inform and educate the public, dental teams, and decision maker about oral health information, programs, and policies
  • Developing and implementing a surveillance system to measure key indicators of oral health and identify key performance measures for tracking progress

The California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 provides $30 million annually to activities that support the plan. Dental insurance coverage also has been expanded in Medi-Cal and Covered California. Additional programs will focus on local solutions for increasing preventive services to children in Medi-Cal and to families enrolled in the Women, Infants, and Children program.

“Think about how you can personally promote this statewide effort and share your expertise and perspectives as we move the oral health agenda forward throughout the decade,” said Karen L. Smith, MD, MPH, department director and state public health officer. “We look forward to partnering with you in this transformational endeavor to improve oral health and the overall health of all Californians.”

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