Decade of Difference: Reaching out to at-risk populations

Oral health

In addition to new general service clinics, the area also has benefited from an expansion in dental care access for special needs and elderly populations. Oral Health on Wheels, a 40-foot mobile dental clinic operated by Johnson County Community College, provides professional dental cleaning and other maintenance services to special needs populations.

A dental services van operated by Truman Medical Center-Lakewood travels throughout Missouri to provide free oral health services to children and adults with disabilities. Oral health services for seniors also have been strengthened: Five oral health clinics in Johnson County now serve 12 long-term care communities.

Oral health education and prevention services targeting school-age children likewise have expanded on both sides of the state line. In Missouri, Miles of Smiles, Inc. has offered portable dental health in Clay and Platte counties since 2002. Through the program, dentists and dental assistants provide free care to low-income children at schools and social service organizations throughout the two counties.

The Missouri Preventive Services Program (PSP) provides oral health education, supplies, screening and fluoride varnish to schools, day care centers, Head Start programs and other groups. Participation in the voluntary program has grown from 4,377 children served in 2005-2006 to over 72,000 students in 2012-2013. Significantly, the proportion of third-grade students in the state with untreated decay declined from 27.0 percent in 2004- 2005 to 25.6 percent in 2012-2013.

In Kansas, the number of students between 3rd and 12th grade screened through a similar program — Smiles Across Kansas — increased from 34,511 in 2008-2009 to 92,177 in 2011-2012. The proportion of Kansas third graders with untreated decay, meanwhile, fell dramatically from 25.1 percent in 2004 to 9.4 percent in 2012.

Ed. Note: This is an excerpt from our Decade of Difference report. Read more about improvements to oral health care in our region over the past decade.

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