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Oklahoma’s Kids Need Our Help: The Importance of Increasing Access to Child Dental Care

By: Terrisa Singleton, Director of the Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation

It’s National Children’s Oral Health Month, and there is no better time to talk about the importance of increasing dental care access for Oklahoma’s kids.

Children’s oral health in Oklahoma has worsened over the past few years. The Oklahoma Oral Health Coalition’s 2023 Oral Health Report Card shows this through several key findings, such as the alarmingly low percentage of children who received preventive dental care visits and the higher rate of untreated tooth decay among Oklahoma kids when compared to the national average. Additionally, the number of SoonerCare children who received dental sealants, a critical component of youth oral care, is among the very lowest in the country. These statistics illustrate the gravity of the youth oral health problem in our state.

The good news? Dental diseases are mostly preventable. All it takes is strategic education about the ins and outs of oral health and a concerted effort to provide resources that increase access to this critical care – and there’s no better place (or more important place) to start than in our schools. 

The Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation has implemented several proactive programs and intervention initiatives directly aimed at filling these gaps.

Our Cavity Prevention Clinic is a community outreach initiative that provides fluoride treatment and dental sealants to Oklahoma students who otherwise might not receive these critical dental services in a timely manner. Because it is important to seal molars soon after they first erupt, these services are offered to second-grade and sixth-grade students. Cavities are one of the greatest unmet health treatment needs in our country today, and sealants are proven to decrease cavity occurrence by 80 percent

The Cavity Prevention Clinic prioritizes the needs of underserved students, working with Oklahoma public schools where at least 70 percent of children are enrolled in the Federal Free and Reduced Meal program. These vital dental services are offered at no charge to the school or families. At the end of each clinic, children are referred to local dentists to encourage follow-up visits and ongoing care.

Free educational programs such as Captain Supertooth and Mouthscience promote positive dental care habits among our state’s youth. 

Captain Supertooth, Oklahoma’s defender of oral health, engages Oklahoma pre-K through third grade students with a lively 25-minute performance to help kids better understand the importance of practicing good oral hygiene. 

MouthScience kits provide tools to visually demonstrate the levels of acid and sugar contained in common drinks. With all the necessary supplies included, these kits are specially designed for third through sixth grade teachers to conduct a hands-on science experiment that aligns with the Oklahoma Academic Standards.   By using these kits in their classrooms, teachers can empower students to make healthier choices to protect their teeth. 

In addition to valuable knowledge and/or dental care, each student takes home a free toothbrush to help them take ownership of their oral health.

Increasing the number of dental health professionals in our state is another important component of furthering access to dental care. Nearly one in four Oklahomans live in counties considered dental health professional shortage areas, a serious obstacle to accessing care. Through clinic funding, scholarships and research stipends we provide to the OU College of Dentistry, we are bolstering the dental workforce in our state and helping to ensure quality dentists and hygienists will be available to support the needs of Oklahomans for generations to come.

If we want to advance oral wellness in our state, it is paramount we continue to implement and enact strategic programs that work toward increasing access for Oklahoma’s smallest citizens. When we teach children why oral health is important, equip them with the necessary resources to receive quality dental care and provide them with this care directly, we are setting them up for a lifetime of positive oral health. 


The Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation was established 25 years ago to advance Delta Dental of Oklahoma’s not-for-profit mission to improve the oral health of all Oklahomans. In addition to its free dental care resources, the 501(c)3 charitable organization provides grants and funds to free and low-cost clinics, awards scholarships to dental and dental hygiene students, and educates thousands of elementary students about oral health and dental disease prevention. The Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation is the state’s single largest contributor to dental health and education-related initiatives, and funded entirely by Delta Dental of Oklahoma. For more information, visit