Oral Health Outreach Program
- 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.
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:
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.
- 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Children and youth
Uninsured and underinsured
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
January 18, 2007
Date updated or reviewed
October 18, 2019
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2019. Oral Health Outreach Program [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/329 [Accessed 25 October 2020]
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.