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Rural Health Information Hub

What to Think About When Planning for Sustainability

Two critical issues are linked to the sustainability of rural oral health programs:

  • Revenue
  • Partnerships


Ongoing funding and resources, such as staff time, are important to sustaining rural oral health programs. It may take years before the revenue generated from the program offsets the associated costs, so it is critical to identify funding opportunities and resources early. It may be possible to bill Medicaid or other insurers for dental services provided and/or use a sliding fee scale. Regardless of the financing mechanism, it is critical to monitor trends in Medicaid and insurance payment policy in the event that changes occur.

For information on other funders of rural health programs, see Funders of Rural Programs in the Rural Community Health Toolkit.


Rural oral health programs have collaborated with schools, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), Area Health Education Centers (AHECs), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) sites, and other state and local agencies to develop partnerships. Some programs have established an oral health consortium or steering committee in the community as a vehicle for sustainability. By developing a consortium or committee, organizations have an opportunity to meet regularly, have open communication, identify resources and capacity, and build sustainable relationships that can improve oral health in the community. These meetings are also an opportunity for the program to acknowledge and thank partners for their continued support. It is important to be aware of any staff changes in partner organizations, as such changes can affect the viability of partnerships in the long term.

Resources to Learn More

Kentucky's Strategic Plan for Oral Health, December 2017
Outlines a strategic plan for improving oral health in the state of Kentucky. Covers workforce, data collection, evaluation metrics, business of dentistry, and inter-professional collaboration of systemic healthcare and oral health. Offers recommendations on increasing dental workforce in underserved areas, improving health literacy, and supporting policies to improve prevention.
Organization(s): Kentucky Department for Public Health, Division of Maternal and Child Health
Date: 12/2017