School-Based Dental Programs Toolkit

Oral health has a profound impact on early childhood development, affecting everything from eating, talking, and sleeping, to socializing, learning, and self-esteem. Studies support a strong oral-systemic connection, and oral health is increasingly seen as a “gateway” to overall health. Helping children adopt strong oral health practices and increasing access to preventive care in North Carolina are therefore vitally important.

Schools are ideal settings in which to pursue these objectives. The importance of oral health can be emphasized early on, and teachers, family members, and community partners can be enlisted to reinforce healthy behaviors throughout the school year. Schools are also particularly well-suited as sites for preventive care delivery, allowing dental providers near-universal access to this critical and often underserved population.

In this toolkit, we will explore the importance of school-based dental programs and how North
Carolina health departments can implement them most effectively and efficiently.