A Guide for Developing and Enhancing Community Oral Health Programs  
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Step 2. Assess Needs and Resources

To determine how to improve oral health within a community, it is important to first obtain a thorough, evidence-based understanding of the community and its current health and oral health needs and existing resources. Therefore, a critical early step in developing, integrating, expanding, or enhancing an oral health program is the assessment of needs and resources.

The foundation of an oral health needs and resources assessment is an understanding of the oral health status of various segments of the population within the community. To prevent duplication of effort and to identify platforms upon which community oral health programs can be developed, integrated, expanded, or enhanced, it is also necessary to understand what oral health program resources are available as well as what general health programs are in place that might provide valuable linkages. It is important to think creatively and to identify potential resources at the national, state, and local levels that could be mobilized in support of oral health.

Under certain circumstances, it may be desirable to focus on a specific population group, such as children or the elderly, rather than on the entire population. Programs generally focus efforts on groups that are at particularly high risk for oral disease and on those that experience obstacles in gaining access to oral health care. These groups include children from families with low incomes, the uninsured or underinsured, individuals with special health care needs, the elderly, individuals who are homeless, individuals who are medically compromised, individuals with HIV/AIDS, nursing home residents, individuals who are incarcerated, minorities, migrants, and recent immigrants. Existing general health community assessments can be very useful in identifying high-risk populations and areas.

To assess oral health needs and resources in the community, certain markers or indicators of community oral health status and needs are used. These may include (1) tooth decay rates, (2) rates of untreated tooth decay, (3) oral cancer rates, (4) oral injury rates, (5) periodontal disease rates, (6) early childhood caries rates, (7) rates of families without adequate dental insurance, and (8) community water fluoridation status.

Activities in assessing a community’s oral health needs and resources are as follows:

  • Organize the assessment
  • Conduct the assessment
  • Organize and analyze data
  • Describe findings
  • Prioritize findings
  • Develop recommendations based on the findings
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Table of Contents Appendices AACDP References Home Appendices References Conclusion Step 6 Step 5 Step 4 Step 3 Step 2 Executive Summary Overview Step 1 Acknowledgements