Oral Health America’s mission is to change lives by connecting communities with resources to drive access to care, increase health literacy, and advocate for policies that improve overall health through better oral health for all Americans. Today, Oral Health America is a part of Authority Dental.
Oral Health America history and programs
Oral Heath America was founded in 1955 as “America’s Fund for Dental Education,” a supporting organization of the American Dental Association (ADA), to raise funds for dental education and research. In 1994, the fund reorganized as Oral Health America, an independent non-profit organization, and embarked on a course to represent the oral health needs of the American public.
Throughout the entire period of operation, Oral Health America actively implemented programs to raise awareness of oral health importance. After the release in 2000, of the first ever U.S. Surgeon General’s report on oral health in America, OHA even redoubled its efforts. They strongly believe that awareness of the problem is the first step to solving it.
Here are the well-known OHA’s initiatives:
Smiles Across America
The Smiles Across America program was launched in 2004 to provide oral disease prevention services for children who are uninsured and underserved due to issues of poverty:
- lack of resources,
- transportation barriers,
- low literacy, and
- language diversity.
One of the main goals was to help communities build infrastructure for school-based or school-linked dental services.The program worked with community leaders, elected officials, and the media to make the case that healthy mouths are critical to overall health.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in America, affecting 50 percent of first graders and 80 percent of 17-year-olds. Over 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental-related problems. Untreated tooth decay and disease can affect a child’s health, well-being, growth, and achievements. Children with serious oral health problems can have difficulty eating, sleeping, and concentrating in school.
The OHA program was intended to counteract these problems. SAA distributed more than 500,000 units of donated dental products annually, reaching almost a thousand treatment partners since 1998. The program offered sealants, fluoride varnish, prophy paste, toothbrushes, toothpaste, sugar free gum, dental flossers, and other supplies from leading corporate partners.
Wisdom Tooth Project
The Wisdom Tooth Project was probably the most-known OHA program. When others remained indifferent, OHA saw the need to change seniors’ dental care. Demographic studies left no illusion - by the end of 2060 nearly 25% of the U.S. population will be aged 60 or older.
That’s over 90 million older adults. And most of them will not have access to dental care. OHA decided to change that. They launched a first-of-its-kind website dedicated mainly to seniors and their caregivers.
The goal was to educate on topics relevant to caring for an aging mouth with health information in plain language and local resources to access affordable care. They believed this could change the lives of seniors, especially those more vulnerable to oral disease.
When providing the most accurate recommendations for patients, OHA worked closely with the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. The ADHA became the main source of content and experts when more specific data was needed.
In addition to connecting older adults to care via website, the Wisdom Tooth Project™ also sought to connect health professionals in aging and oral health to best facilitate comprehensive care for older adults through national and regional symposia.
Locally and nationally, they advocated for oral health equity for older adults.
State of Decay
A State of Decay is a state-by-state report concerning public health and policy issues behind the oral health of older adults. The report combined information gathered by OHA staff in surveys of state dental directors with data from publicly available sources.
Each year, several variables were included in the state analysis. These were, inter alia, state dental directors’ declaration of having State Oral Health Plans (SOHPs) and whether those plans included SMART objectives (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-scaled) that mention or include older adults.
Through publication of A State of Decay and provision of guidelines for action, Oral Health America developed a set of policy recommendations and actions based on the issues highlighted in the report. The purpose of these recommendations was to assist advocates to stimulate change by increasing awareness of the needs of seniors among state and federal decision-makers.
National Spit Tobacco Education Program
Oral Health America’s National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP) was founded in 1994 as an effort to educate baseball families and the American public about the dangers of smokeless and spit tobacco.
NSTEP worked to break the long-standing link between this potentially deadly drug and America’s pastime. Their mission was to prevent people, especially young people, from starting to use spit tobacco, and to help all users quit.
Each year, anywhere from 10 to 16 million Americans put their health at risk by using spit tobacco products. Almost half (46%) of new users are under 18 when they first try it. Tobacco use is linked to cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, and pancreas. That is why the message of NSTEP® remains so important.
Together, NSTEP and Little League educated families about the specific risks of spit tobacco use including oral cancer, gum disease, and tooth decay. They provide people with:
- smoking/tobacco quitting tips,
- verified medical information about the dangers of smokeless tobacco,
- accurate statistics about smokeless tobacco usage in the United States, and
- many other useful online resources.
To share awareness, they organized slogan contests for teenagers annually. Players aged 8-14 had to create a compelling ten-word phrase describing the dangers of spit tobacco for a chance to win a trip to the Little League Baseball World Series. Results of contests were widely promoted in social media.
The programs described above are only a part of the organization's activity. Oral Health America also ran the Campaign for Oral Health Equity, where they engaged the public through multi-faceted communications strategies and encouraged Americans to speak up and prioritize mouth health alongside other health considerations in improving the nation’s health.
This campaign was directly connected with the Fall for Smiles action, which educated Americans about healthy food choices, avoiding tobacco, brushing and flossing twice daily, and visiting a dental professional at least twice a year.
Still, these are only a small percentage of the organization’s efforts. Oral Health America had a huge impact on spreading knowledge about oral health’s importance nationally, and even worldwide.
Oral Health America is now Authority Dental
Authority Dental is proudly continuing Oral Health America’s mission to educate American families about the importance of dental health.
Started in 2015, Authority Dental is one of the fastest-growing dentistry websites in the United States, reaching millions of people every year. We are famous for creating the most trusted dental content on the Internet. All information on our website is verified by multiple dentists for medical accuracy.
Just like OHA, we believe all Americans should have equal opportunity to achieve good oral and overall health throughout their lives. We are committed to providing easy access to verified dental information and connecting senior patients with affordable dentists.
Authority Dental is offering a unique “dentist near you” service. We will match you with a trusted dentist nearby that accepts your insurance.
Is the Oral Health America 501(c)(3) non-profit organization active?
OHA has currently ceased, and does not intend to renew, active operations. The OHA Board has determined that, due largely to an unanticipated precipitous decline in contributions in the last quarter of 2018 and the unlikely renewal of sufficient contributions in the near future, OHA does not have and is not likely to have sufficient capital and reserves to continue as an ongoing concern.
Today Oral Health America is a part of Authority Dental, where we continue to fight for equal access to dental care for all Americans.
Where can I get more help?
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