Announcing NCOHC’s Re-Vamped Access Map

Nearly a year ago, NCOHC launched a COVID-19 oral health access map. As dental offices transitioned to only offer emergency services — and while health professionals worked to figure out how to best ensure provider and patient safety — our staff wanted to make sure that those who needed care weren’t left without any idea where to go.

There were several reasons why NCOHC hoped to highlight facilities offering emergency care across North Carolina. First and foremost, tooth decay and gum disease aren’t going to wait for the pandemic to subside. And, as anyone who has ever suffered from a toothache knows, when you have an oral emergency, you want it taken care of fast.

We also know that so many people with dental emergencies seek care at their local hospitals, which often are not equipped to handle that type of care. Even in a non-pandemic world, it is important to divert these patients to facilities that can address their concerns, rather than offer temporary solutions. Especially during a pandemic, however, reducing demand on hospital staff wherever possible is absolutely critical.

Our staff decided that a centralized map would be helpful to anyone who needed care, but didn’t know where to go. We thought a map would be a good resource, but we certainly didn’t think that more than 31,000 people would have viewed it nearly one year later.

But it makes sense. There wasn’t any centralized resource to use to find a provider near you—especially if you need to find affordable options that accept Medicaid or offer care on sliding fee scales.

Now that most offices are open for routine care again, NCOHC has decided to make the Access Map a permanent resource, displaying useful information beyond operating status. If you navigate to the map, you can see hours of operation, service type (kids and adults), and more.

Additionally, in the coming months, NCOHC staff will be updating the map with more information, such as the availability of translation resources.

What do you want to see on the NCOHC Access Map? We are looking for feedback as we continue to develop this resource. Take a moment and fill out our survey with any suggestions you have.

Looking for other ways to get involved? Head over to NC4Change today!


The NCOHC Teledentistry Fund – One Year Later

Last year, soon after the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States, those of us at NCOHC were working to devise plans in how we would work to contribute to the public health response. We came up with a couple of ideas, including the creation of our safety-net access map and the launch of the NCOHC Teledentistry Fund.

We partnered with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation (BCBSNC Foundation) to launch the Teledentistry Fund, awarding up to $60,000 in grants for safety-net dental providers geographically spread across NC. So far, the fund has allowed 14 safety-net clinics to purchase teledentistry software, enhancing their ability to provide a wide variety of services with their communities without risking the health of patients and providers alike.

A year later, and we have been blown away by the results.

We recently sat down (virtually) with just a sample of the oral health professionals who received Teledentistry Fund grants to hear about their experiences. Check out the video below to learn how the software helped them navigate the pandemic, and what kind of future they see for remote care technology in a post-pandemic world.



Welcoming NCOHC’s New Program Coordinator

This month NCOHC welcomed a new Program Coordinator. As Sarah Heenan joins the team, we sat down with her to ask a few questions about who she is and what brought her to the world of oral health.

Tell us a little about your background, where you are from, and your educational path.

I am from the Washington, D.C. area originally. I moved to Raleigh in 2004 to pursue a degree in history from Peace College, an all-women’s college at the time. I knew that my life’s work would be realized by working with people from all different life experiences, cultures, and backgrounds. Both personally and professionally, my time at Peace College led me down a road through the higher education landscape, helping students navigate their experiences while advancing the mission of the university. This direction helped me see value in gaining my Master of Arts in Higher Education at Appalachian State University, and eventually I ended up at North Carolina State University. There I learned the value of large public land grant institutions and the value of partnership with statewide organizations to provide needed resources to the people of North Carolina. My eyes were opened to the idea of shifting to the nonprofit world, where making a difference and changing necessary landscapes is at the forefront of the work.

What professional accomplishment before coming to NCOHC are you most proud of?

Building many relationships with both internal colleagues and external partners. A recent partnership I am most proud of is the development and management of the Off Campus Consortium group at NC State. I managed relationships between private off-campus partners and the university to provide the most direct and trusting housing resources to students.

What originally drew you to working in the oral health space?

Making a difference in our society by creating change and helping to provide needed services to the residents of North Carolina.

What has been the most rewarding part of your work with NCOHC thus far?

Working with the staff and learning about all of the work the Oral Health Collaborative engages in to create systemic changes in our state.

What are the biggest challenges that you see facing access and equity in oral health care in North Carolina?

Barriers to access due to the social determinants of health.

What do you enjoy doing when not working?

I enjoy spending time getting my hands in the dirt and working to create useful and beautiful garden spaces for my family and friends to enjoy. When I’m not in the garden, I’m generally building useful furniture made out of scrap materials. My two dogs, Oliver and Sage, and my partner, are always along for wherever the adventure may take us. In the time of the pandemic, because travel was not an option, we have enjoyed watching traveling shows and dreaming about getting overseas when it is safe to do so again.

What do you want our membership to know about you?

That I am a passionate individual who loves people and working hard to make systems more efficient.