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Dental Public Health Activities: Descriptive Summaries

BEST (Bringing Early Education, Screening and Treatment) Oral Health Program- Archived Summary

Practice Number: 24008
Submitted By: Partners for a Healthier Community, Inc.
Submission Date: November 2009
Last Reviewed: October 2011
Last Updated: October 2011
Best Practice Approach Example BEST (Bringing Early Education, Screening and Treatment) Oral Health Program

The BEST (Bringing Early Education Screening and Treatment) Oral Health Program, started as a three year demonstration project funded by the state to provide oral health care access to children 0-5 years old in preschool settings.  Four years later, (2007-2011) BEST is provided by Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, Commonwealth Oral Health Mobile Services, and Partners for a Healthier Community. It is based inHampden County,Massachusetts.

The BEST Program provides early intervention for infants, toddlers and elementary school children with high risks (e.g., low incomeand racial/ethnic groups experiencing barriers to accessing dental care). Preschools and schools serve as dental homes to deliver comprehensiveoral healtheducation and preventive/restorativetreatment services. TheBEST Program trainsEECchildcare staff and school nurses to provide oral health education using an adapted version of the Open Wide model. The program also makes referrals to community based dental clinics for further oral health services. Originally BEST was a preschool based program, however, as children “graduated” into Kindergarten the BEST program responded to community requests to ensure that children are also seen in elementary schools.

As of October 2011, theBEST Program has reached 70 organizations, trained 1,083EECsite staff and Family-Based Care Providers, and provided oral screening and dental prevention/treatment services to 5,428 children inHampdenCounty. Original demonstration project evaluation showed post-tests of preschool staff increased their knowledge in oral health.  Oral health related quality of lifedata was analyzed and results show improvements in quality of lifescores in children withearly childhood caries following treatment. Thestart-up operating cost for the program is approximately $330,000, which includes conducting a pilot test targeting a limited number of preschool programs ($25,000), hiring a Community Coordinator ($50,000), and delivering dental services ($255,000). Up to 80 percent of theoperating cost may beoffset by revenuegenerated in thesubsequent years when theprogram operates at full scaleand bills insuranceplans for services.

Lessons Learned:

First lesson, working with preschools to ensure that they can sustain oral health services through their organizational system is critical. All of our preschools still have oral health program running year round and include these services as a highlight of their family service package to incoming families.  Second lesson, working with public school systems is critical to ensure a continuation of care. Being part of a process to solidify an “oral health plan” for a school system is one way to have internal policies guarantee that students will not go with out services. Third lesson, creating a referral system with the school nurses and hygienists and dentists will allow for higher rates of complaints and built in accountability system to ensure child’s care is being completed. Fourth lesson, having enough numbers of children participating allows for hygienists and dentists to bill for services that ultimately pay for their staff time, therefore not needing ongoing funding from grants.

Contact Person(s) for Inquiries:

Frank Robinson,, PhD
Executive Director
Partners for a Healthier Community, Inc.
PO Box 4895, Springfield, MA 01101
Phone: 413-794-7740
Fax: 413-794-7777