Medical providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and physician assistants, can work in partnership with Head Start programs to improve oral health services for enrolled children and expectant parents.
Explore tips below for what medical providers can do to help.
Increase oral health knowledge and skills.
- Learn about oral health and its impact on overall health and well-being.
- Understand how to recognize oral disease and how to apply fluoride varnish and silver diamine fluoride.
- Address social determinants of health to promote good oral health for Head Start participants and their families. For example, medical providers can offer oral health resources to Head Start staff that are tailored to families' commonly spoken languages, cultures, and traditions.
Integrate oral health care into medical care.
- Fulfill the state requirements needed to receive reimbursement for the provision of preventive oral health services. Medicaid programs in every state and the District of Columbia reimburse medical providers for preventive oral health care.
- Incorporate oral health screenings, risk assessments, fluoride varnish applications, anticipatory guidance, and referrals for treatment into well-child visits.
- Provide education to parents about the importance of regular oral health during pregnancy and early childhood and throughout life.
Partner with oral health professionals and organizations.
- Establish referral relationships with local oral health professionals working in private practice, dental schools, dental hygiene programs, local health departments, or community health centers.
- Make presentations to local oral health societies about issues identified during well-child visits, and stress the need to provide oral health care to children age 5 and under.
Promote oral health within medical communities.
- Educate medical colleagues about the important role they play in maintaining the oral health of children ages 5 and under.
- Emphasize to colleagues the value of:
- Conducting oral health screenings and risk assessments
- Applying fluoride varnish
- Providing anticipatory guidance, counseling, and referrals for treatment during well-child visits
- Encourage medical professional organizations to raise their members' awareness of the oral health needs of Head Start participants and how to address those needs.
- Leverage professional medical organizations' resources to improve oral health among children enrolled in Head Start programs. For example:
- Use organizations' electronic communication tools (e.g., websites, newsletters, podcasts, social media accounts, blogs, discussion lists) to highlight the oral health needs of Head Start participants.
- Encourage the use of the organizations' foundation funds for Head Start oral health-related activities.
- Collaborate with Head Start programs.
- Contact the state's Head Start Collaboration Office to learn about getting involved with local Head Start programs. The state office facilitates collaboration among Head Start agencies and other entities to implement activities to benefit Head Start participants and their families.
- Join a Health Services Advisory Committee to assist in the development and review of the program's health-related policies and procedures.
- Help Head Start staff recruit private dental practices or clinics to provide oral health care for Head Start participants.
Serve as a champion for oral health.
- Work with policymakers and other stakeholders (e.g., state department of health staff, state Medicaid agency staff) to promote policies that increase access to oral health care for children and expectant parents from families with low incomes, including those enrolled in Head Start programs.
Resource Type: Publication
National Centers: Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety
Program Type: Head Start
Audience: Teachers and Caregivers
Last Updated: December 1, 2023