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Access to Dental Care


NC Oral Health Section
Access to Dental Care Activities

The NC Oral Health Section has devoted substantial effort over the past decade to expanding and maintaining the Dental Care Safety Net in North Carolina. The Dental Care Safety Net includes public and private non-profit facilities providing ongoing, comprehensive dental care to low-income patients. The NC Oral Health Section supports expansion and operation of the Dental Care Safety Net in a number of ways:


Ongoing Efforts

* Oral health risk assessment and referral links children needing dental care with providers willing to treat them. These referrals help dental care safety net providers remain productive.
* Technical assistance is provided for establishing new clinics and supporting the operation of existing safety net clinics. The Oral Health Section's technical assistance efforts complement those of the NC DHHS Office of Research, Demonstrations, and Rural Health Development.
* Calibrated oral health assessment data have been and continue to be critical in demonstrating the need for dental care safety net facilities. Community leaders also look to these assessment data to estimate the ongoing impact of safety net facilities and to monitor a community's progress in improving the oral health of its children.  
* Into the Mouths of Babes - The NC Oral Health Section continues as a partner in the ‘Into the Mouths of Babes’ oral screening and fluoride varnish program, training medical professionals to provide oral preventive care to the youngest Medicaid-covered children.

Past Efforts

* In the mid-1990s, the NC Oral Health Section began assigning public health dentists to local health departments on a part-time basis in order to provide clinical services in support of newly established safety-net dental clinics. Such assignments have continued to the present based on local demand and availability of staff.
* In October 1996, the Section hosted a workshop on community dentistry that was attended by many local health directors and other community leaders interested in improving access to dental care. As a result, a number of local coalitions were established to focus on developing additional Safety Net Dental Clinics.

The Section followed up this initial workshop with a second workshop in July 1998 focused specifically on establishing and operating a public health dental clinic.

In early 1999, the Section produced a resource manual and a set of fact sheets to enhance our technical assistance with clinic start-up.
* In April 2005, the NC Oral Health Section hosted the 2005 North Carolina Oral Health Summit. This Summit provided a forum where state public health policymakers, state dental professionals, local public health officials, and interested citizens could address identified oral health access to care issues related to Medicaid recipients in North Carolina.


Access to Dental Care in Private Dental Practices

Most dental care in North Carolina is provided in private dental practices across the state. For help in locating a dentist in your area, you may contact your local dental society or the North Carolina Dental Society. The American Dental Association also provides information on finding a dentist.


Help with Paying for Dental Care

Finding dental care can be very difficult for many low income people. NC Medicaid and NC Health Choice for Children are programs that can help to cover dental expenses for people who qualify. To find out if you or your children qualify for one of these programs, contact your County Department of Social Services. You also may visit the NC Division of Medical Assistance web site or contact the DHHS Care-Line at 1-800-662-7030. Staff at this hotline also can help you find a dentist who accepts patients covered by Medicaid or Health Choice.


Safety Net Dental Clinics in North Carolina

Across North Carolina, there now are more than 75 dental clinics dedicated to serving low-income patients who have limited access to dental care. This number is close to three times the number of facilities that existed in the early 1990s. Typically, these clinics are operated by local public health departments, community health centers, or other non-profit organizations. Most of these clinics accept patients enrolled in Medicaid or Health Choice. Many of these clinics also provide services on a sliding-fee scale to low-income patients who have no dental insurance. These Safety Net Dental Clinics are located in most counties in the state. If there is not a local Safety Net Dental Clinic in your area, contact your county health department for information on available resources. Also, the North Carolina Community Health Center Association (NCCHCA) maintains a list of community health centers operating in North Carolina. Contact the community health center nearest you to find out if they provide dental care.



Summary Report:
Special Care Dentistry Advisory Group
Special Care Oral Health Services
A North Carolina Commitment
March 1, 2010

Charge to the Special Care Dentistry Advisory Group:

Session Law 2009-100 directed the Oral Health Section in collaboration with the Division of Medical Assistance, the Division of Aging and Adult Services, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the East Carolina University Schools of Dentistry, the North Carolina Dental Society and current providers of special care dental services, to examine the current dental care options for populations requiring special care dentistry and provide suggestions for ways to improve the availability of services to those needing such dental services. The Department was directed to report findings and recommendations to the North Carolina Study Commission on Aging and the Public Health Study Commission.

The Oral Health Section of the Division of Public Health, was charged with identifying collaborative partners and coordinating preparation of this report. A Special Care Advisory Group of providers and consumers, individuals and agencies met twice and developed the sixteen (16) recommendations described in this report.



The North Carolina Medical Journal Highlights
Access To Dental Care

NC Medical Journal

Dental care access was highlighted in the November/December 2005 issue of the North Carolina Medical Journal, published by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine and The Duke Endowment. Click on the above link to read a wide range of articles on current topics relating to dental care access in North Carolina.



The North Carolina Oral Health Summit

April 8, 2005
The Friday Center
Chapel Hill, NC

The 2005 North Carolina Oral Health Summit provided a forum where state public health policymakers, state dental professionals, local public health officials, and interested citizens could address identified oral health access to care issues related to Medicaid recipients in North Carolina. More Information.


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Updated on April 19, 2010
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