Schools aren’t just a place for children to learn, they are a place that can address the health needs of Virginia students. In particular, school-based oral health programs can address the dental care gap many students face.

What are school-based oral health programs?

School-based oral health programs address multiple barriers to health care access and support equitable health outcomes by reducing barriers to obtaining care, such as transportation, busy schedules of working parents, etc. At Virginia Health Catalyst our work focuses on preventive school-based oral health programs including fluoride varnish applications, dental x-rays, dental sealants, and comprehensive oral health examinations. These preventive services can improve oral health outcomes for students for years to come.

Why are school-based oral health programs important?

School-based dental services are an important access point for children who might not otherwise be able to see a dentist. Fifty percent of children who received dental care in schools did not see a dentist in the prior year, yet for students who did receive care through school-based services, a third went on to see a dentist. Better oral health also helps school performance. It is estimated that more than 51 million school hours are missed annually due to dental conditions. Addressing oral health needs directly in schools means Virginia students can miss fewer school hours and improve oral health and learning outcomes.

What school-based oral health programs are in Virginia?

There are approximately 500 school-based health programs in Virginia. Virginia Health Catalyst is launching a new collaborative learning cohort for eight dental safety-net clinics and ten schools to implement school-based health programs in the communities they serve. Working side by side with these clinics, school nurses and schools are developing new programs to ensure even more students in Virginia can access critical preventive oral health services. Catalyst looks forward to expanding the programs in the years to come, learn more by contacting Brita Allen at ballen@vahealthcatalyst.org.