Dad and son brushing their teeth

More than 200 community stakeholders and dental providers have come together to create the State Oral Health Plan 2020-2030 that outlines a road map for preventing dental disease, making oral health care in Minnesota easier to access, improving data infrastructure and integrating dental care with medical care.

The plan is the result of an extensive community engagement process involving the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota’s Dental Services Advisory Committee and the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition. Community members and partners stressed that oral health care in Minnesota needs to transition to a more upstream approach of not just treating dental disease but preventing it.

The plan calls for the state to focus on oral disease and oral health needs at different life stages. This includes the role played by social and community factors in dental health, including health literacy, health equity, cultural practices and behaviors related to oral disease and progression.

“We have a strong system of dedicated dental public health partners that bring oral health care to Minnesotans from all walks of life,” said Mary Manning, Minnesota Department of Health assistant commissioner. “Still, many health disparities exist, and subsequent hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic have only amplified the needs. This plan is a clear road map for improving oral health in Minnesota.”

Nationally, marginalized communities, such as low-income children and adults, people of color and American Indians, and people with disabilities are more likely to suffer from dental diseases. In Minnesota, the same is true. Some facts reported by the Minnesota Oral Health Program data portal include the following:

  • More than half of Minnesota counties do not have adequate dental providers.
  • Students living in rural communities have more tooth decay than students in urban areas.
  • Adults from low-income households are less likely to report visiting a dentist.
  • Around 40% of adults aged 65 and older living in long-term care facilities had untreated tooth decay, according to 2016 data.
  • Latinx adults were 1.4 times less likely to have visited a dentist or dental clinic within the past year compared to non-Hispanic white adults, according to 2016 data.

“We look forward to the plan serving as a tool for better access and healthier mouths for all Minnesotans,” said Nancy Franke Wilson, executive director of the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition.

The MDH Oral Health Program will act as the backbone organization responsible for the coordination of the implementation, continuous improvement and evaluation of the plan. MDH’s next action steps will focus on working with partners and experts to raise awareness of the plan, develop targeted work plans and to create a shared dental health measurement system to track success. MDH will also focus on pulling together a dedicated group of professionals focused on rural oral health, while also reaching out to rural health advocates.

For more information about the MDH Oral Health Program or the Minnesota State Oral Health Plan, visit About the Minnesota State Oral Health Program.