New state oral health plan provides road map for all Californians

A 10-year plan for addressing the major oral health issues in California was released in late January by the California Department of Public Health. Developed over three years in collaboration with the Department of Health Care Services, the plan identifies strategies to improve oral health over the lifespan and to achieve oral health equity for the state’s diverse population.

"I am pleased to share the thoughtful efforts of dedicated people from across the state in this new document, California Oral Health Plan 2018-2028,” said Karen L. Smith, MD, MPH, CDPH director and state public health officer, in a statement. “The California Department of Public Health supports the development of healthy communities through public health policy, guidelines, funding opportunities, technical assistance, and workforce development for realizing each community’s unique vision.”

The oral health plan is organized into a total of 11 sections with five major sections covering:

  • The background of oral health in California, the burden of oral diseases and the need for a state strategic plan
  • Strategic frameworks and public health concepts that shape the oral health plan
  • State and local oral health program functions and services
  • A conceptual model of the oral health plan process
  • Goals, objectives and strategies for (1) children under age 6 and pregnant women, (2) people with diabetes, (3) vulnerable populations, (4) oral and pharyngeal cancer, (5) payment systems, (6) capacity and (7) infrastructure

Also included in the plan is a “Healthy People 2020 Oral Health Indicators” chart with target levels and current status listed for various objectives — from dental caries experience to oral and pharyngeal cancers detected at the earliest stage.

The plan offers a structure for taking collective action to assess and monitor oral health status and oral health disparities, prevent oral diseases, increase access to dental services, promote best practices and advance evidence-based policies.

Alignment of dental care programs, payments systems and integration of oral health into primary care are offered as methods for increasing dental visits and creating opportunities to prevent dental disease, while screening, counseling, disease prevention and building community-clinical linkages for referrals are recommended for engagement in community settings. Collection, analysis, interpretation and dissemination of quality oral health data factor prominently in the ability to assess the nature and extent of oral disease.

To help implement its activities, the plan capitalizes on significant Denti-Cal improvements, expanded coverage options and recent fiscal developments, such as passage of CDA-supported Proposition 56 — the tobacco tax measure — which provides $30 million in dedicated annual funding.

Completing a comprehensive state oral health plan was one of the objectives of State Dental Director Jayanth V. Kumar, DDS, MPH, who began serving in his role in August 2015. Kumar developed the first comprehensive state oral health plan for New York.

CDA will keep members informed about developments in the CDA Update and on cda.org.

Download the California Oral Health Plan 2018-2028.

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Local dental societies this February can participate in National Children’s Dental Health Month by planning any number of activities, from offering dental health screenings and giving school presentations to organizing coloring or essay contests and sponsoring a display at the local library. Suggested activities and ideas to assist with publicity efforts are available in the downloadable 2018 NCDHM Program Planning Guide available on the ADA’s website.