Oral Health

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 the 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.  Low-income families’ children are twice as likely to have cavities as children from higher-income families.

How do SBHCs address oral health?

School-based health centers can positively impact students’ oral health in many ways.

  • Provide parent/guardian education on the importance of oral health assessment and evidence-based practices such as dental sealants and fluoride varnish.
  • Support oral health education in the classroom, including dental hygiene and the connection between oral health and overall health.
  • Provide oral health education, screening, assessment for early detection, onsite care when possible, and referral assistance as needed.
  • Coordinate with dental sealant and fluoride varnish programs or provide them in the SBHC, depending on the scope of practice and state laws.
  • Coordinate with community providers to develop a dental home for students.
  • Work 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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Other Resources

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Want further assistance implementing and improving oral health in your SBHC?

Together, our consulting team brings more than 250 years of combined experience in planning, implementing, operating, evaluating, and improving community-provided school-based health care, including school-based health centers (SBHCs). Learn more about consulting services here.

Expert Oral Health Partners