January 30, 2020

New Analysis Highlights Disparities in Oregon Kids’ Access to Preventive Oral Health Services

Healthy Teeth, Bright Futures introduces bipartisan policy solution to address gaps in care, strengthen dental programs in Oregon schools.

Just over half of the children enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan received preventive oral health services – such as sealants, fluoride treatments and cleanings – in 2018, according to a new report released today. Additionally, Black children had the lowest rate of access to preventive services and the highest rate of emergency department visits for avoidable dental problems.

Healthy Teeth, Bright Futures—a new campaign supported by philanthropic organizations, health plans, educators, health equity and social justice groups and health care providers—released the report, commissioned by the Oregon Community Foundation and completed by the OHSU Center for Health Systems Effectiveness, and unveiled their 2020 legislative agenda to improve Oregon kids’ access to preventive oral health services and, ultimately, academic achievement.

House Bill 4127, which is chief sponsored by dentist and state Rep. Cedric Hayden (R-Roseburg), Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland) and Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham) and co-sponsored by 23 other legislators, enters the short session with strong bipartisan support.

“Every day, children miss school and struggle to focus in class due to preventable dental pain,” said Melissa Freeman, Director of Strategic Projects at Oregon Community Foundation (OCF). “Our coalition believes that every child deserves the opportunity to thrive in school and life. Access to preventive oral health services is an inseparable part of this vision.”

Overall, nearly half of 6- to 9-year-olds in Oregon had cavities in 2017, according to the Oregon Smile Survey. However, children of color are at a higher risk of developing cavities.

  • 72 percent – Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
  • 64 percent – Hispanic/Latino
  • 59 percent – Asian
  • 55 percent – American Indian/Alaska Native

“In Oregon, we come together for our kids. Thanks to policies like Cover All Kids, Oregon kids today enjoy near-universal health coverage,” said Chris Coughlin, Legislative Director of Children First for Oregon (CFFO). “It is time to take action and prevent needless dental pain by making oral health services equitable and accessible for all Oregon children.”

For the past five years, OCF and several funding partners have provided grants for school-based oral health programs to deliver services to more than 275 schools across 22 counties in Oregon through an initiative called the Children’s Dental Health Initiative. With the initiative sunsetting in 2020, a broad and growing coalition has formed to launch Healthy Teeth, Bright Futures, aimed at protecting and expanding school-based oral health programs.
Along with OCF and CFFO, coalition members include: CareOregon, Oregon Latino Health Coalition, Family Dental Care, Kemple Memorial Children’s Dental Clinic, Mercy Foundation, Oregon Coalition of Local Health Officials, Advantage Dental, Capitol Dental, Coalition of Communities of Color, Kaiser Permanente, Willamette Dental and Oregon Dental Association.

HB 4127 directs the Department of Education, in consultation with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), to develop oral health curriculum standards; directs OHA to seek federal grant funding to support care coordination for school-based dental programs, with a focus on reaching kids who experience health disparities; and ensures that coordinated care organizations and public health agencies can continue to support coordination of school-based dental health programs so that children participate in and receive appropriate follow-up care.

About Healthy Teeth, Bright Futures / Sonrisas Sanas para un Futuro Brillante
Healthy Teeth, Bright Futures is a coalition of philanthropic organizations, health plans, educators, health equity and social justice groups and health care providers coming together to advocate for children’s dental health. Together, we are strengthening families and kids by ensuring that every Oregon child has access to preventive dental services at school.

Learn more:;