Dental Access Project

Dental disease hurts more than our teeth. It’s tied to our overall health. Tooth decay can risk our physical, mental and economic wellbeing. It also strains state budgets. Policy barriers keep many people from getting the care and support they need to have good oral health. Due to structural racism and economic inequity, this most harms Black and Brown people, American Indian/Alaska Native communities and people with low incomes. But with policy change, we can achieve good oral health for everyone.

The Dental Access Project elevates the voice and power of communities to expand access to oral health care and foster policy and systems change grounded in what communities really need. The Project uses a health justice framework to improve access to equitable oral health coverage and care.

We support state and tribal partners in creating policy change that helps people get quality, affordable dental care where and when they need it, in their own communities, with particular attention to communities of color, tribal communities and low-income populations, as well as other groups who have been disenfranchised by the current oral health delivery system.

Our current work is focused in two specific areas:

Strengthen and diversify the oral health advocacy base to promote a more equitable oral health care delivery system.

In collaboration with the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement, we use Community Catalyst’s system of advocacy approach to build capacity and strengthen the voice of grassroots organizations in advocating for oral health policy and systems change. We provide tailored technical assistance  to grassroots and local organizations to build their capacity for coalition building and policy analysis, and to leverage their expertise in organizing and direct service work. The goal of this technical assistance is to bring a diversity of voices into oral health policy advocacy spaces, and to ensure statewide oral health policy change is grounded in the needs of communities.

Advance the dental therapy movement on the state, tribal and national levels.

The Dental Therapist Project, a joint initiative between Community Catalyst and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, empowers community groups and consumer health advocates to expand the dental team to include a mid-level dental provider called a dental therapist. These practitioners are specially trained to deliver oral health care in community-based settings under the supervision of a dentist. Through this project we partner with community-based organizations, consumer health advocates and state and tribal leaders to promote the role of dental therapists in increasing access to care, with the goal of authorizing dental therapists in state and tribal laws.

In collaboration with the National Indian Health Board, we also convene the National Partnership for Dental Therapy to bolster support for dental therapists and expand the dental therapy profession to additional states and tribal communities.

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