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Oral Health Outreach Program

Summary 
  • Need: Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children in the United States.
  • Intervention: The Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center provides Oral Health education through the "Tooth Fairy's Helper" to elementary-aged children along the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
  • Results: Over 35,000 children have received oral health education through presentations in schools since 2006.

Description

Although tooth decay is preventable, it is still the most common chronic disease among children in the United States.

The Oral Health Outreach Program was designed to provide oral health education and resources to low-income children in the 9 counties along the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Dental education is brought to elementary schools, daycare centers, and community events via the "Tooth Fairy's Helper."

The following organizations have helped the oral outreach program in its effectiveness:

Tooth Fairy's Helper - Oral Health Outreach Program
The "Tooth Fairy's Helper" teaches children about oral health in rural eastern Maryland.

Program services were originally distributed by the Children's Regional Oral Health Consortium (CROC), supported by a 3-year Federal Office of Rural Health Policy's Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant. The Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center (AHEC) received funding from the Maryland Office of Oral Health to continue the program.

Services offered

  • Dental education and outreach in elementary schools, daycare centers, adult medical daycare facilities, special needs schools, and community events via the Tooth Fairy's Helper.
  • Dental care kits for children that include a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, Maryland Office of Oral Health brochures for parents, and a resource list of Choptank Community Health's dental offices.
  • Dental care kits are distributed to pregnant women through the Dorchester County Health department.
Tooth Fairy's Helper group - Oral Health Outreach Program
The "Tooth Fairy's Helper" visits an adult medical daycare facility to promote good oral health.

Results

Over 35,000 children have received oral health education through the Tooth Fairy's Helper school presentations since 2006, averaging 5,000 annually for the past several years.

Results from the 2018-2019 school year include:

  • 171 presentations done by Tooth Fairy's Helper
  • 6,151 total participants
  • 5,234 students educated
  • 5,234 dental kits distributed
  • 38 schools visited (32 were Title 1)

The Eastern Shore AHEC has received countless testimonies from teachers about parents taking action to better their children's oral health because of the Tooth Fairy's Helper presentations.

In 2015-2016, surveys were distributed to teachers and students for evaluation of the Tooth Fairy's Helper presentations. These surveys were designed to provide baseline data regarding the effectiveness of the presentations, giving credibility for the Oral Health Outreach Program to qualify for evidence-based ranking.

The Oral Health Outreach Program is featured in RHIhub's Rural Oral Health Toolkit.

Barriers

Initially, lack of cooperation from teachers and principals in some schools has been the main difficulty experienced by the Oral Health Outreach Program. This may have been due to staff turnover, skepticism, a multitude of programs already scheduled for the classrooms, or simply a lack of experience with the program. Once they saw the enthusiasm from the students and positive results, it became easier to secure future dates for annual Tooth Fairy's Helper presentations.

Replication

Communities wishing to replicate this program should listen to the needs of their particular community, specifically:

  • Understand how your geographic area affects access to dental care.
  • Understand the health status and demographics of your target population.
  • Recognize and utilize resources that already exist.

Contact Information

Caitlin Donohue-Vega, RDH, BS, Oral Health Outreach Coordinator
Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center
410.221.2600
cvega@esahec.org

Topics
Children and youth
Medicaid
Oral health
Uninsured and underinsured
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
Women

States served
Maryland

Date added
January 18, 2007

Date updated or reviewed
October 18, 2019


Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.