School-Based Comprehensive Oral Health Centers

Center for Oral Health's School-Based Oral Health Clinics Project is known as the Healthy Teeth Healthy Schools Program. This program provides preventive and therapeutic dental care to children through local school based health centers at little or no cost to their families. The program currently operates the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). 

The burden of oral disease among children can have a direct, negative effect on their ability to succeed in school. Children and adolescents experiencing pain are distracted and unable to concentrate on schoolwork. Poor oral health has also been related to decreased school performance, poor social relationships, and less success later in life.

Access to oral health care is the most prevalent unmet health care need among children and adolescents, including those with special health care needs. In recent years, the oral health status of children has gained considerable interest among various federal programs due to research showing: Children of low-income families experience a higher prevalence of oral disease, are less likely to receive dental care, and to have untreated caries than children from families with higher income. Yet, despite this interest and the advances in disease prevention, dental caries continues to take a heavy toll on children's health and well‑being especially among children in lower socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic groups.

Research has shown that schools with a high percentage of students who qualify for free/reduced lunch also have high dental health needs and are less likely to have seen a dentist for preventative or restorative care.

Research also shows that dental health issues lead to absence from school for students and absence at work for parents. Both of these types of absence have far reaching economic consequence. One advantage of having a dental clinic located on a school campus and operating during the school day is that it will prevent much of the absence associated with dental issues, increase the schools Average Daily Attendance (ADA), and thus increase the schools funding from state.

 “We are able to see all kinds of wonderful people at the SBOHC! In one case, we had a mother come in saying that she has kids that haven’t had dental treatment, simply because she could not afford it. Of course, we naturally told her to bring them in. To our surprise, she came back the next day wanting to schedule her 7 kids! It is wonderful to know that families as a whole can come to our SBOHC, without having to pull them out a whole day of school or take away from the parents’ time from work; this is the beauty of a School Based Oral Health Center. For 7 kids, I’m sure this task can be quite overwhelming mentally, physically, and financially. It is good to know we can make an impact to families that are in need of help. I am pleased to be part of something special and endearing. The Center for Oral Health and their expertise with reaching out to underserved communities in oral disparities is something I know is making a difference in the community today and will continue to make a great impact in years to come.” -Elmer Hilo, DMD, Dental Director, Center for Oral Health

 Students at Murchison Street Elementary learning about proper brushing techniques!

Students at Murchison Elementary in 2014

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School-Based Comprehensive Oral Health Centers