Oral Health America (OHA) is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955. The original founders of the organization were a diverse group of leaders in dental education, business, research and practice, and began as a supporting wing of the American Dental Association (ADA). The offices are now located in Chicago, Illinois. The Board of Trustees are still made up of highly talented individuals from dental academia, research, industry and policy advocacy.
Oral Health America's mission is "to change lives by connecting communities with resources to increase access to care, education and advocacy for all Americans especially those most vulnerable." The organization carries out this mission with partnerships and educational activities focused on the availability of care to more than 100 million uninsured Americans looking to be free of oral disease.
Unfortunately, people suffer more from root decay, dry mouth and other instances of poor oral health as they get older. Things like tooth loss and denture complications can lead to the inability to eat certain foods, preventing them from maintaining a healthy diet and thus furthering the oral conditions that may already be affecting them. For this reason, OHA's Tooth Wisdom is devoted to the elderly and their oral health needs. OHA's research suggests 70 percent of seniors lack dental insurance, and the organization is dedicated to providing access to care for the elderly at a reasonable cost. It also partners with many dentists across the country on a blog that educates older citizens on the importance of oral health to the rest of the body.
OHA also helps run dental programs in many public schools to provide better access to care for all children. This is especially important in poor communities: Through campaigns like Smiles Across America®, the organization believes all children should have a great smile with no cavities or preventable infection. You can also check its grant database to see if there are financial opportunities through your child's school.
Community-based dental programs are just as important for adults with limited financial resources. Having raised over $2 million in grant support in previous years, Oral Health America can guide people to hundreds of well-equipped care partners and state-run centers nationwide. Its collaborators strive to provide access to both chairside checkups and critical products like fluoride, which is present in your own tube of Colgate Total®.
There is a true relationship between oral health and overall health, and OHA has endorsed numerous initiatives to promote this connection – from proper nutrition in school lunchrooms, to Tour de Teeth, a bike ride to raise money for oral health awareness. Poor oral health can have effects on your heart and lungs, whereas pregnant women must also maintain good oral health for the sake of their baby. Oral health goes beyond being pain free and being able to chew properly; it influences your ability to sleep at night and focus during the day. When you see your physician, ask about this link between oral health and systemic health, and whether a bodily condition indicates a need to see a dentist.
OHA strongly believes that the use of chewing tobacco needs to stop. Its health risks reach far and wide, and the organization knows it is all about public awareness. Projects like its National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP®) use baseball as a vantage point from which to eliminate this bad habit in our younger population. This year, OHA celebrates 20 years of advocacy to this end.
What You Can Do
Like any not-for-profit organization, it needs your help. It can come with something as simple as telling your friends about the organization, or informing an elderly relative in need about Tooth Wisdom. Contribute your own photos and resources to this season's Fall for Smiles, and feel free to donate to OHA directly.