Dental Public Health Activities: Descriptive Summaries
Use of Surveillance to Direct State and Local Oral Health Programs
The Oral Health Section (OHS), North Carolina Division of Public Health, determines the oral health of a community in three ways: (1) Dental assessments - measuring specific oral conditions such as the average number of decayed, missing and filled teeth and proportion of children with dental sealants, (2) Dental screenings - identifying children in need of dental care and referring them for care, and (3) Statewide epidemiological surveys - scientifically measuring the quantity and types of oral disease in a population. The epidemiological surveys are conducted approximately every 15 years. The North Carolina oral health program has been based on epidemiological studies beginning in the 1960's with a household dental survey of people of all ages. Findings were used to guide program planning through the 1970's. The 1960 household survey was repeated in 1976 to measure trends in oral health status and to provide baseline information for the newly implemented school-based dental prevention and education program. The next survey in 1986-87 was school-based and included almost 8,000 schoolchildren. The outcome of this survey resulted in a major programmatic change in the North Carolina oral health program emphasis from restorative treatment services to preventive services, especially dental sealants. The OHS believed it was necessary to closely monitor oral health trends in young children and therefore, implemented annual standardized Kindergarten and 5th grade dental assessments in 1995.The Statewide Evaluation of Community-Wide Strategies to Promote Dental Health, conducted in 2003-2004, was also a survey of school children. However, it included additional information to evaluate the Section's community-based prevention programs. In 2015, 5th grade was no longer targeted for assessment. The decision was made to target 3rd grade to be consistent with the National Oral Health Surveillance System (NOHSS) indicators. Implementation to begin 2017-2018 and every 5 years thereafter.
Although the OHS has been doing annual assessments in schools for nearly 25 years, there continue to be lessons learned.
Contact Person(s) for Inquiries:
Rhonda Stephens DDS, MPH, Public Health Dentist Supervisor, North Carolina Division of Public Health-Oral Health Section, 5505 Six Forks Road, Raleigh, NC 27609, Phone: 919-707-5483,
Sarah Tomlinson, DDS, NC Dental Director , North Carolina Division of Public Health-Oral Health Section, 5505 Six Forks Road, Raleigh, NC 27609, Phone: 919-707-5488, Email: Sarah.Tomlinson@dhhs.nc.gov