Public health attention to oral health care remains inadequate as evidenced by prevalence of dental caries and periodontal disease in general and especially in low-income communities. These common oral infections are almost completely preventable with education, effective self-care and timely access to professional oral health intervention. The Oral Health Forum (OHF) works with the public health system, key oral health care providers and community leaders to coordinate, expand, and improve existing oral health resources in health promotion, prevention and treatment.
In 2012, the OHF developed a comprehensive oral health education curriculum for pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. This was presented to and endorsed by the Health and Wellness Materials Review Committee of Chicago Public Schools. To implement this health education initiative in schools, the oral health educators work closely with staff from the Chicago Department of Public Health, CPS’s Health and Wellness Office and directly with school administrators.
The OHF OHEP serves Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12. OHF presenters visit schools that are part of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) School-Based Oral Health Program (SBOHP), a program that facilitates dental teams’ visits to CPS. All students qualify to receive oral assessment, dental cleaning, fluoride treatment, and dental sealant (s), if signed consent is provided by a parent/caregiver. Because students from low-income homes are at an increased risk for experiencing oral disease, the OHF OHEP visits schools with the greatest proportion of students who are low-income and thus who are in most need of its preventive education services.