Oral health is an important aspect of an individual’s health and well-being. Poor oral health causes many diseases among people of all ages (Martin, 2013). Regular oral healthcare services may aid in combating oral diseases and detecting other related problems. However, rural communities face disparities in oral health despite the increased knowledge and engagement in oral care services. They are unable to gain access to care, use services and realize health outcomes. This essay provides a brief overview of the benefits of public health efforts and a model in preventive oral health.
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The benefits of public health efforts to educate and raise awareness of oral health within communities
Many people in rural areas with low socioeconomic status and low health literacy experience severe challenges associated with oral diseases and they are not likely to get dental healthcare (Stone and Casey, 2012). Therefore, public health efforts to educate and raise awareness are critical in improving oral health. First, rural communities learn how to manage and prevent new cases of oral diseases. Public education and awareness allow rural communities to gain good access to information about oral hygiene, including how to manage existing cases of oral health problems. Oral diseases have specific prevention methods that rural communities learn and practice to reduce risks of new dental challenges and manage the existing conditions. Through public education, rural communities learn about simple preventive measures for oral hygiene.
Second, rural communities adopt healthier oral care practices to lessen the risks of developing oral diseases. These may include regular cleaning of teeth and avoiding certain diets, which are taught in public health education and awareness campaigns.
Third, rural communities scarcely get medical attention due to inaccessibility and low socioeconomic status. Public health education and awareness allow rural communities to understand the relevance of regular oral checks with dentists. For instance, creating awareness to see a dentist regularly is an important aspect of public health education. Public education and awareness programs ensure that rural communities learn about treatment opportunities and attend treatment services.
Fourth, rural communities learn about the necessary information regarding oral diseases and prevention strategies. Education and awareness programs about oral diseases cover how poor oral hygiene contributes to oral health issues. Such knowledge helps in clarifying cultural beliefs and myths related to oral diseases and lessens discrimination against individuals with oral hygiene problems.
Fifth, public education and awareness programs allow rural community members to support education processes and become health champions in communities. Community members participate actively in healthcare promotions to assist other members of their communities with dental health challenges. They will be able to take care of the vulnerable populations, especially children who may find it difficult to express their oral hygiene challenges.
A model program in preventive oral health
Several model programs, such as the school-based model; dental clinic model; oral health-primary care integration model; mobile dental services model; and dental home model exist to help in managing oral healthcare among the vulnerable and medically underserved rural communities (Rural Assistance Center, 2014). The essay presents the mobile dental services model.
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The mobile dental services model provides rural communities with dental healthcare services through portable clinics and mobile vans by targeting popular places, Head Start Centers, schools, and other hard-to-reach areas (Rural Assistance Center, 2014). The mobile dental services model may have “X-ray facilities, process claims, maintain records, schedule appointments and receive patients” (Rural Assistance Center, 2014).
The major aims of the mobile dental services model are to “provide access to dental care, preventive health care, and chronic disease screening and management services for underserved residents of isolated communities” (Rural Assistance Center, 2014, p.1). In this sense, the model provides medical opportunities for rural communities that may find it difficult to find dentists.
The mobile dental services may include “oral examinations, public education and offering dental sealants” (Rural Assistance Center, 2014). However, these services may not include complex procedures, which involve oral surgery and root canals. Rural communities receive dental care on-site and send claims to Medicaid and insurance firms for individuals with medical covers.
It is imperative to consider implementation issues when adopting the mobile dental services model. First, nurturing and developing effective relationships with the target beneficiaries or community stakeholders is critical for the success of this model. Rural programs are effective through a partnership with local stakeholders. Therefore, the model should provide oral supplies while community members support and refer others to service centers. The model refers patients who require advanced and specialized oral care to well-equipped facilities.
Second, the model requires a coordinator to schedule appointments, decide on patients’ eligibility, provide reports and facilitate community outreach programs.
Finally, the mobile dental services model requires diverse sources of funds such as donations from various stakeholders and fundraising activities to supplement patient fees. This is necessary because of the costs associated with maintaining the van in different climates.
Overall, Melissa Blair notes that a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) on a series of oral health reports revealed that a solution for enhancing the country’s oral health might rest with innovative programs that already exist, which address barriers to “preventive oral health services with solutions in non-traditional, community and mobile settings” (Blair, 2013).
Blair, M. (2013). New Reports Highlight Oral Health Innovations, Preventive Care Models. Web.
Martin, A. B. (2013). Rural Populations and Health: Determinants, Disparities, and Solutions. The Journal of Rural Health, 29(4), 432. Web.
Rural Assistance Center. (2014). Mobile Dental Services Model. Web.
Stone, N., and Casey, B. R. (2012). Promoting Oral Health in Rural Communities. In R. Crosby, M. Wendel, R. Vanderpool, & B. Casey (Eds.), Rural Populations and Health: Determinants, Disparities, and Solutions (pp. 269-284). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.