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Resources | OHI Toolkit | Option 2: Currently Offers On-Site Dental Services | Expansion/Addition of Off-Site Direct Services | School-Based Health Programs


Resources | OHI Toolkit | Option 2: Currently Offers On-Site Dental Services | Expansion/Addition of Off-Site Direct Services

School-based health programs are another option for health centers to consider in expanding off-site direct dental services. School-based health programs provide access to important preventive measures for high risk children such as dental sealants and fluoride treatment. Health centers can follow the checklist below when developing a school-based dental program:

  • Build the case and get support for a school-based program as a sustainable service delivery method for expanding oral health services.

  • Decide on a delivery model: 1) fixed clinic located in schools, 2) mobile vans parked on school property, 3) portable equipment carried into schools and located in temporary spaces, or 4) multiple models.

  • Review your state’s dental practice act to determine supervision guidelines and allowable tasks by dental providers in school-based settings.

  • Review state Medicaid guidelines on reimbursement of oral health services delivered in school-based settings.

  • Consider the financial sustainability of the school-based dental program. This feasibility calculator can help to assess the financial sustainability of an existing or future school-based oral health program. The HRSA OHI funding can be used to purchase dental equipment and supplies including mobile units and portable dental equipment.

  • Establish community partnership, that could include local schools, school districts, and existing school-based oral health programs. The National Maternal Oral Health Resource Center’s resource guide, Promoting Oral Health in Schools lists resources including readiness assessments for oral health programs in schools.

  • Determine the services to be delivered within the school-based setting (i.e., preventive, additional, or specialty dental services). NNOHA’s Survey of School-Based Oral Health Programs Operated by Health Centers outlines descriptive findings on school-based health programs’ productivity and services. Additionally, the report provides promising practices and recommendations for funding, consent for treatment, and care coordination. A NNOHA conference session presentation, The Seal is the Deal discusses developing and implementing a school-based sealant program.

  • Determine the health IT system for your school-based dental program. Ensure that the system complies with HIPAA standards.

  • Establish clinical, referral, and care coordination workflows, new dental team roles, and communication processes between school-based site and health center sites.

  • Enroll students and prepare the necessary forms to obtain consent.

  • Prepare sites for clinical care through provider and staff training and education.

  • Establish an ongoing program evaluation and quality improvement process.

For more information on these steps, access NNOHA’s report and webinar on school-based oral health programs by health centers. The American Dental Association also has a collection of resources for school-based dental programs. NNOHA has a promising practice, Mobile Dental Units for School-Based Dental Care, from a health center that utilizes a mobile dental unit to provide dental care to various school sites in their community.



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NNOHA is the largest group of safety-net oral health practitioners in the country, and our members all share a commitment to increasing access to quality oral health care for underserved populations. NNOHA is committed to providing the highest quality resources and support designed to meet the unique needs of our members and their programs.

School-Based Health Programs

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