Oral Health in Rural Communities – Models and Innovations
These stories feature model programs and successful rural projects that can serve as a source of ideas and provide lessons others have learned. Some of the projects or programs may no longer be active. Read about the criteria and evidence-base for programs included.
Updated/reviewed September 2021
- Need: To address the oral health needs of low-income uninsured and underinsured residents in rural Appalachia.
- Intervention: An oral health education program was implemented in Appalachian Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
- Results: This program has increased oral health visits in the area and has provided residents with valuable information on oral health resources and services.
Updated/reviewed January 2020
- Need: To connect low-income people in rural northwest Minnesota to dental care and support services in order to address barriers to care.
- Intervention: Partners work together to provide patient transportation, care coordination, and insurance navigation and enrollment.
- Results: Patients accessing support services are more likely to complete dental treatment. Over 1,000 people a year have been assisted with Medicaid enrollment, and reported use of the emergency department for dental pain has been reduced.
Updated/reviewed October 2021
- Need: To decrease the number of children entering kindergarten with untreated tooth decay in the rural Appalachian counties of Rutherford, Polk, and McDowell in western North Carolina.
- Intervention: A program to give children a dental home that included screenings, targeted outreach, and restorative services.
- Results: An overall decrease within the service area of children entering kindergarten with sub-par oral health.
Updated/reviewed July 2020
- Need: To improve the oral health status of children ages 3 to 17 living in underserved rural areas of Louisiana.
- Intervention: School-based nurse practitioners perform oral health assessments, apply fluoride varnishes when indicated, and make dental referrals, with completion rates of the latter tracked by dental case managers.
- Results: Significant numbers of school children are receiving oral health examinations, fluoride varnish applications, and receiving care coordination to improve numbers of completed dental appointments.
Other Project Examples
Updated/reviewed July 2021
- Need: In rural Garrett County, Maryland, a 1998 community survey found that 41% of kindergarten students had untreated dental decay, and many dentists in the area were not willing to see patients with medical assistance or state health insurance plans.
- Intervention: In 1999, the Garrett County Health Department started the Something to Smile About program to improve access to dental care and help dentists negotiate higher reimbursement rates from managed care organizations.
- Results: The program established a community dental clinic, provided care to thousands of individuals, and negotiated 30% higher rates for dental service reimbursement.
Updated/reviewed April 2021
- Need: To help rural Maryland adults with disabilities learn more about oral health and access care.
- Intervention: Health Right community health workers gave educational presentations at agencies serving those with disabilities.
- Results: From March 2014 to February 2016, educational presentations reached 1,084 adults with disabilities and 344 staff and caregivers, and 256 people received dental treatment.
Updated/reviewed March 2021
- Need: Lack of access to oral healthcare for children from limited-income families in the rural and urban areas of South Dakota.
- Intervention: Delta Dental of South Dakota launched the Delta Dental Mobile Program in 2004 to expand access to oral healthcare services to children throughout the rural state.
- Results: The Delta Dental Mobile Program has provided over $31 million in dental care to more than 58,000 South Dakota children.
Updated/reviewed November 2020
- Need: Oral healthcare for low-income adults and children unable to obtain dental care in the Mid-Ohio Valley of West Virginia.
- Intervention: Public health dental hygienists act as gatekeepers, screening low-income clients and placing them with area dental providers who volunteer from their private practices to provide needed dental treatment.
- Results: Reduces the number of emergency department visits for dental pain and infections and provides a safety net for those unable to afford dental treatment.
Updated/reviewed September 2020
- Need: Dental care access for children in low-income families living in a 7-county region of southwest Missouri.
- Intervention: A mobile dental unit was created to expand dental care access.
- Results: The Miles for Smiles mobile dental clinic provides comprehensive dental care to children throughout the 7-county region
Updated/reviewed July 2020
- Need: To improve rural residents' oral healthcare.
- Intervention: MORE Care creates interprofessional oral health networks to 1) better integrate oral health into primary healthcare and 2) coordinate oral health between primary and dental healthcare.
- Results: MORE Care has led to increases in fluoride varnish administration, improvement in interprofessional communication, and patients' improved self-management of their daily oral health.
Last Updated: 10/5/2021