Dental caries (tooth decay), is the single most common chronic disease of childhood, affecting nearly 6 in 10 children in the United States. Poor oral health is epidemic among all children, but is especially severe among lower income children. Untreated, tooth decay has severe consequences to society and to the individual, resulting in pain that can interfere with school attendance, learning, and play. Poor oral health often continues into adulthood, and research shows linkages between poor oral health and heart and lung disease, diabetes, stroke, pre-term low birth weight. Community oral health programs (COHPs) are a key strategy for reducing oral health disparities, primarily through disease prevention, increasing access to care and policy development. Unfortunately these programs cannot readily quantify the results of their activities and researchers lack data to publish evidence-based solutions to influence practitioners and policymakers. Many also lack the ability to bill insurance for services. The Phase 1 identified the information that dental publc health practitioners and researchers need to improve programs and policies for reducing the high rate of dental decay in low income children and the requirements to allow COHPs to bill for services. It determined the merit and feasibility of developing a solution for these groups based on an existing, prototype software toolkit and database, the Healthy Teeth Toolkit Version 1 (HTT1) from Oral Health Solutions (OHS), currently used by a limited number of representative COHPs. In Phase 1 OHS specifically determined 1) the current information tools and data collection needs of a broad range of COHPs, including needs related to billing and program evaluation and 2) the tools and data collection needs of researchers, policy experts and funders. Phase 1 further established the feasibility of developing a commercial version of the HTT1, the HTT2, that meets these identified needs and it developed a detailed systems specification for this system. Phase 2 proposes to build the commercial version of the Healthy Teeth Toolkit, HTT2, using the detailed systems specification developed in Phase 1. The resulting software system will be deployed and thoroughly tested in several representative COHPs to insure it efficiently meets the needs of COHPs and researchers and is of suitable, robust commercial quality.
The Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health stated that The public health infrastructure for oral health is insufficient to address the needs of disadvantaged groups. Community-based oral health programs (COHPs) are the primary strategy for expanding capacity to serve these vulnerable populations. The HTT2 e-tool kit is intended to enhance the quality of services of COHPs and to provide relevant data demonstrating changes in oral health status.