With funding support in the amount of $400,000 annually, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) will be well-positioned to deliver an innovative program to combat dental caries, increase awareness about linkages between nutrition and oral health, and increase the number of sealants applied to youth through a hybrid school-based and school-linked setting within several of the state’s health professional shortage areas (HPSAs). The NJDOH’s hybrid approach is innovative because a state-wide, state-supported program that incorporates an evidenced-based caries-risk assessment and awareness tool, dental sealants treatments and nutrition education has never been implemented before by the NJDOH – the state’s largest accredited public health department. The components of support that New Jersey is seeking with this prevention program will enable the State to innovatively address oral health priorities in the State, identified in the upcoming 2022 New Jersey State Oral Health Plan, that have yet to be met. These components will entail the New Jersey Department of Health – Integrated Health Services Branch, Division of Community Health Services (NJDOH), Oral Health Services Unit (OHSU) collaborating with eight federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), two community-located dental academic institutions, and one community-based Dental home, to provide caries risk assessments, dental sealants and nutritional counseling to high-risk children in the State to launch a project through which the all the dental health providers serve Medicaid populations. Eligible patients are youth ages 5-18 presenting for dental visits, who are screened using a caries risk assessment tool (CAMBRA: CAries Management By Risk Assessment) and have a medium or high-risk for caries (indicated by dental codes D0602 and D0603) and are Medicaid-eligible, Medicaid-enrolled, uninsured. These patients and their caregivers receive oral health nutrition education and counseling in
cluding healthy food choices, healthy beverage choices, and physical activity. Additionally, eligible patients receive any medically necessary dental sealants and up to three oral health nutritional counseling sessions when presenting for dental visits. Dental practitioners conducting the nutritional counseling sessions are reimbursed $60 per visit (D1310). The overarching goal of the program is to prevent and manage dental cavities based on risk assessment status, and transition vulnerable youth to preventive oral health, as opposed to emergency care and excessive restorative care. Using Healthy People 2030 objectives (OH-01, OH-02, OH-08, OH-09, OH-10) as a guide, the NJDOH’s prevention program seeks to accomplish the following goals: 1. Increase access to lower-cost, preventive oral health to stave off more costly restorative treatment in the subsequent future; 2. Improve overall the oral health of at-risk populations (youth ages 5-18) through: i) the absence of caries, the #1 chronic disease in children that is preventable ii) the reduction of factors causing “high-risk” status; 3. Increase awareness and understanding of the various nutrition-related (food and beverages) linkages that can be harmful and those that can be complementary to achieving ideal oral health. Finally, securing this funding will ensure an improved and continued access to evidenced-based preventive oral health services for more of New Jersey’s residents, especially those who are most vulnerable, at-risk, uninsured and under-insured. New Jersey’s 24 community health centers have more than 130 sites around the state. It is critical to commit this funding to the intervention through collaborations with the FQHCs and approved dental health center provider locations to booster the oral health care they provide to thousands of vulnerable NJ residents each year.