Why address oral health in SBHCs?
Oral health is critical to overall health, yet tooth decay is one of the most chronic childhood diseases in the United States. Poor oral health affects children’s quality of life, school performance, and success later in life. Cavities (tooth decay) are preventable, yet by age 8, over half of children (52%) have had a cavity in their primary teeth. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections, leading to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning. Children with oral health problems miss more school and receive lower grades than children who don’t. Children whose families have low incomes are twice as likely to have cavities as children from families who have higher incomes.
How do SBHCs address oral health?
School-based health centers can positively affect students’ oral health in many ways, such as:
- Providing education to parents or guardians about the importance of oral health assessment and evidence-based practices such as dental sealants and fluoride varnish.
- Supporting oral health education in the classroom, including dental hygiene and the connection between oral health and overall health.
- Providing oral health education, screening, assessment for early detection, onsite care when possible, and referral assistance as needed.
- Coordinating with dental sealant and fluoride varnish programs or providing them in the SBHC, depending on the scope of practice and state laws.
- Coordinating with community providers to develop a dental home for students.
- Working with mental health providers, as there is a strong connection between oral health and mental health (anxiety, eating disorders, depression.)
School-Based Health Alliance Resources
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