Initiative, Part of CareQuest Institute’s Grantmaking Efforts, Aims to Establish an Oral Health Champion in Each State
CareQuest Institute for Oral Health®, a leading national nonprofit focused on creating a more accessible, equitable, and integrated oral health system, is partnering with the Center for Integration of Primary Care and Oral Health (CIPCOH) on a campaign to designate 50 Oral Health Champions (one in each state) during the next decade to work with health profession schools and programs to integrate oral health into their primary care curricula and bridge gaps in oral health access.
The initiative, the 100 Million Mouths: Creating Primary Care Champions for Equitable Oral Health Campaign, was originally funded by Health Resources and Service Administration and is now part of CareQuest Institute’s grantmaking efforts. It aligns closely with the Institute’s efforts to create an oral health system that is more accessible, equitable, and integrated.
“As an organization focused on centering health equity and the voices of marginalized communities, we aim to continue to explore ways to meet communities where they are, develop intentional tools and opportunities to support their health, and integrate a community-driven perspective as we explore ways to improve care delivery and coordination,” said Trenae Simpson, Director of Grants and Programs at CareQuest Institute. “We made this investment to grow a new health care workforce that is directly contributing to meeting the oral health needs of everyone and helping educational institutions rethink how they approach oral health as a part of overall health.”
Many Americans visit their primary care provider more regularly than they do a dentist. Additionally, disparities in access to oral health exist across income, race, geography, and immigrant status. In fact, more than 56 million Americans live in areas with a shortage of dental professionals. Through this initiative, CareQuest Institute hopes to help give more primary care providers the tools and training to advise patients about their oral health, fill a critical gap, and advance oral health equity.
Shenam Ticku, BDS, MPH, instructor in Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Hugh Silk, MD, MPH, professor in the department of family medicine and community health at UMass Chan Medical School, co-lead the 100 Million Mouths campaign.
“This project started from a bold idea that we could reach millions of Americans who may not have access to a dentist by enlisting the greater health care workforce as partners in oral health,” said Ticku. “Our Champions can train their peers and create more advocates for oral health.”
“The project is to create 50 state champions who will work to implement some oral health curricula in every health school in the country,” said Silk. “We named it 100 Million Mouths because 100-plus million people do not visit a dentist in any given year but are likely to visit their primary care provider. So, if we could have oral health promotion and disease prevention addressed by primary care graduates in their practices, we could improve the health of that many people.”
The initiative launched in 2021 with Oral Health Champions from six different states across the US: Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Missouri, and Tennessee. Now in its second year, Champions have joined from eight additional states: Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Ohio. The program is in the process of recruiting Champions from Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana, Idaho, Alaska, Vermont, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
Champions represent a range of personal demographics and professional backgrounds, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, pediatricians, family medicine doctors, med-peds physicians, dental hygienists, and pediatric dentists. The goal, within a decade, is to have at least one Champion in each state.
Once Oral Health Champions are accepted in the program, they receive training that gives them a toolkit to engage with health profession schools and programs in their home states to improve oral health education.
To learn more, read CareQuest Institute’s blog on the Campaign.
CIPCOH is joint effort between the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and UMass Chan Medical School's Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.