Open Wide: Expanding oral health care

Building capacity of nurse case managers to support improved oral health among Milwaukee families

Full Project Name:Open Wide: Expanding oral health primary prevention opportunities through partnershipPrimary Community Organization:Marquette University School of DentistryPrimary Academic Partner:Sheri Johnson, PhD, PediatricsAward Amount:$40,000
Award Date
July2009
Project Duration:12 months

Project Description Narrative:


Tooth decay (dental caries) is one of the most common dental diseases affecting children. Nationally, 50% of all children have untreated dental caries by age 9 and 70% have at least one decayed tooth by the age of 18. In Wisconsin, a survey by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services indicated that 30% of third-grade children were found to have untreated decay in at least one permanent tooth, with disproportionate increases seen among minority populations.

Case managers and social workers working with low-income and disabled women and their children have a unique opportunity to promote oral health and prevent tooth decay, as well as to link clients to needed services. Yet, the nursing and social work curriculums generally do not include in-depth education on oral health prevention strategies.

To support improved oral health outcomes, project partners aim to expand the competencies of nurse case managers to confidently include oral health prevention and promotion services in their work with low-income, disabled women and their children.

Community partners:
SET Ministry

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Reviewed existing curricula, identifying and adapting the Oral Health Program to Engage Non-Dental Health & Human Services in Integrated Dental Education (OPEN WIDE) from the Connecticut Department of Oral Health, for program training

• Identified statistically significant improvement in knowledge, confidence, and ability of nurse case managers and social workers to institute oral health prevention into routine care for children and mothers from low-income families living in underserved communities

• Provided the opportunity and coordination for all participants (children) to secure a dental home following a risk assessment conducted by nurse case managers and social workers, documenting that 86% of children participating in the pilot risk assessment obtained dental care homes

• Identified strategies, such as training for case managers in motivational interviewing techniques, to better support families in following up on dental appointments and reducing "no show" rates

• Presented project at various meetings and events such as National Oral Health Conference and the Marquette University School of Dentistry at Dental Rounds Seminars

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