In recent years, Rhode Island (RI) has received federal funds to support a variety of oral health initiatives. As a result, the Oral Health Program, RI Department of Health has been sustained, community health centers have started new or expanded dental clinics, and extensive oral health partnerships have been developed. Additionally, the Oral Health Program and the state have accomplished many goals outlined in past RI Oral Health Plans. These accomplishments have furthered the oral health infrastructure on a statewide level and assembled public/private/not-for profit partners with the common goal of increasing the oral health of all Rhode Islanders through the statewide oral health coalition: RI Oral Health Commission.
Despite these accomplishments, RI needs to address gaps identified by the RI Oral Health Program and the RI Oral Health Commission and outlined in the 2017 RI Oral Health Plan. Priority areas identified in the Plan include: improving access to oral healthcare services, with an emphasis on evidence-based prevention; informing and supporting productive, data driven, oral health policy decisions; integrating the dental and medical care systems; increasing oral health literacy of RI residents; and sustaining the oral health workforce. Proposed projects in Components #1 (school sealant programs, water fluoridation, and oral health surveillance) and #2 (tobacco use – dental integration) will advance and implement the goals and priorities listed.
Project activities in Component #1 include: (1) Coordinate and implement SEAL RI! – a coordinated initiative to increase dental sealant use targeting low-income populations through school-based programs, (2) Track SEAL RI! program efficiency and reach, (3) Increase the number of people drinking properly fluoridated tap water, both by monitoring and adding systems and educating the public, (4) Develop oral health leadership through staffing, management and support, (5) Maintain/develop partnerships and coalitions, (6) Continue oral disease data collection activities and maintain surveillance system, (7) Evaluate all aspects of oral health programming, (8) Assess facilitators and barriers to advancing oral health, (9) Conduct strategic planning to utilize, update and maintain the RI Oral Health Plan, and (10) Implement communications activities to promote oral disease prevention.
Project activities in Component #2 include: (1) Develop bi-directional oral health referral mechanism within QuitWorks-RI (tobacco cessation counseling over the phone) to promote dental visits; (2) Build partnerships between oral health and tobacco cessation proponents; (3) Educate dental providers about QuitWorks-RI, tobacco cessation counseling, and motivational interviewing; (4) Create tobacco cessation-friendly dental champions; (5) Create a financial incentive through dental practices to motivate use of dental services by those doing tobacco cessation (6) Promote tobacco cessation/oral health connection and use of QuitWorks-RI via local sports arenas and social media campaigns; and (7) Spread awareness of the connection of poor oral health and tobacco use through a data brief.