Oral Health

The Public Health Department’s Local Oral Health Program partners with medical and dental providers, community-based organizations, county programs, schools, and local professionals to increase access to oral health resources in the County of Santa Clara. We offer oral health education and trainings to various professionals and organizations, help increase access to dental services for families, and work as a safety net to help school districts connect families to dental services.

Review the sections below to find oral health state requirements, information, and resources relevant to your profession.


One of the leading causes of school absenteeism is tooth pain due to dental decay. Schools can play a key role in student oral health to address missed school days and improve student success.

Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment

Promoting the Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment (KOHA) helps ensure better oral health in children and remove oral health as an obstacle to learning. California law requires that all children have a dental assessment by May 31 in either kindergarten or first grade, whichever is their first year of public school. The assessments must be performed by a licensed or registered dental health professional, and proof of assessment is due on an annual basis by May 31.

What can schools do about KOHA?

  • Remind parents and caregivers to have children screened for oral health issues by May 31 and provide a list of organizations or dental offices that can help.
  • Complete the KOHA form for your patients, and have staff remind parents of younger children that the state requires dental screenings by May 31 for those starting kindergarten or first grade.
  • Provide copies of the KOHA form or the online link, oral health educational flyers, and provider lists to parents and caregivers at the time of routine medical and dental exams.
  • Emphasize the importance of dental screenings for school success.

Learn more about:

School-Based Dental Screenings

Organizations in the County of Santa Clara can provide local school districts with on-site, school-based dental screenings, oral health services, and oral health education for students of all ages and their families. Some offer care coordination for families in need of assistance with receiving dental care or with finding a dental home. School-based dental events can be scheduled throughout the school year. For information about school-based oral health education and screenings (ages 6 months to 18 years), visit the Healthier Kids Foundation’s Dental First program page or contact the Santa Clara County Dental Society.

Events, like the annual Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) dental screening event, are hosted by the Santa Clara County Dental Society in partnership with the American Dental Association and Santa Clara County Dental Foundation. Dentists are welcome to volunteer by completing the GKAS online form.  

Local organizations providing oral health-related services to students and families:

Oral Health Education

The Local Oral Health Program (LOHP) offers oral health training materials and online classes for those looking to improve oral health knowledge and its connection to overall health. The LOHP team employs and partners with subject matter experts in oral health conditions and inequities and can tailor educational materials to the specific needs of the audience.

Contact the LOHP directly for more information on oral health educational trainings, which may include:

  • Oral Health 101 for Educators
  • Oral Health 101 for Nursing Staff
  • Medical Dental Integration
  • Prenatal Oral Health
  • Oral Health Ages 0-3
  • Oral Health in Youth and Adolescents
  • Teens, Tobacco, and Oral Health
  • Oral Health and Aging
  • Dental Sealants and Fluoride Varnish Treatments
  • Water Fluoridation
  • Common Oral Health Conditions
  • Oral Cancer
  • Head and Neck Screenings for Nursing Home Nurses
  • Gum Disease and Health Issues
  • Infection Control
  • Oral Health and COVID-19
  • Oral Health and Wellbeing

Useful Resources:

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Dental Providers

Sign-up to be a Medi-Cal Dental Provider

Many County of Santa Clara residents are in need of dental services. Choosing to offer dental services to Medi-Cal recipients helps provide crucial dental services to those who need it most in our community and offers a personal and rewarding experience to providers and staff. Meet a Medi-Cal Dentist, and discover what it means to be a dental hero.

Learn more about becoming a Medi-Cal Dental Provider:

Covid Protocols at the Dentist

COVID-19, an airborne virus transmitted through aerosols, presents unique considerations when treating patients in various healthcare settings. Dental offices are healthcare settings where airborne contamination can sometimes occur with many diseases, such as COVID-19, Influenza, and Tuberculosis. Healthcare personnel should regularly consult with the state dental boardthe California Department of Public Health, and/or the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department for current COVID-19 information as well as recommendations and/or requirements specific to their jurisdictions. Healthcare COVID-19 protocols may change based on transmission levels in the county where their healthcare facility is located.

Patients with suspected or confirmed airborne disease like SARS-CoV-2 infection should postpone all non-urgent dental treatment until they meet the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precautions. When performing aerosol-generating procedures on patients who are not suspected or confirmed to have SARS-CoV-2 infection, ensure that dental personnel correctly wear the recommended PPE and use mitigation methods, such as four-handed dentistry, high evacuation suction, and dental dams, to minimize droplet spatter and aerosols. According to the EPA, the use of portable HEPA air filtration systems can enhance air cleaning during procedures and when combined with standard precautions, can reduce the potential for airborne transmission of COVID-19 indoors. Commonly used dental equipment known to create aerosols and airborne contamination include:

  • ultrasonic scalers
  • high-speed dental handpieces
  • air/water syringes
  • air polishers
  • air abrasion

COVID-19 resources for dental providers:

Dental Care During Pregnancy

Did you know pregnant persons can safely receive dental treatments while pregnant? It’s very important to continue good oral healthcare before and during pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association and the Journal of the American Dental Association, dentistry during pregnancy is safe. Delaying treatment can lead to unforeseen health issues, which can be bad for both baby and pregnant persons. Poor oral health is known to be associated with periodontal disease and poor pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth and preeclampsia.

Resources about dental care during pregnancy:

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Medical Providers

Dental Care is Medical Care

Both medical and dental professionals realize that certain health conditions may often be related other conditions or health habits. Oral health is a key component to maintaining overall health. When patients take an interest in their oral health, their physical and mental health often improve. Educating patients on the effects of poor oral health in medical practices can help bridge this gap in patient knowledge. When medical providers and dental providers partner to prevent poor oral health, everyone wins.

Medical conditions linked to poor oral health:

  • Endocarditis – An infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers or valves (endocardium) typically occurring when bacteria or other germs from another part of the body, such as your mouth, spread through the bloodstream and attach to certain areas in the heart.
  • Cardiovascular disease - The connection is not fully understood, but some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke are linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
  • Pregnancy and birth complications - Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
  • Pneumonia - Certain bacteria in the mouth can be pulled into the lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

Health conditions that can impact oral health:

  • Diabetes - By reducing the body's resistance to infection, diabetes puts the gums at risk. Research shows that people who have gum disease find it more difficult to control blood sugar levels. Gum disease also appears to be more frequent and more severe among people living with diabetes. Periodontal care can often improve diabetes control.
  • HIV/AIDS - Painful sores often appear in the mouth, which can lead to subpar or less often daily care, creating a vicious cycle of poor oral health.
  • Osteoporosis – Linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss due to bone-weakening. Also, certain drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to jaw bones.
  • Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias – Many persons often lack the capacity to care for their oral health while suffering from Alzheimer’s, especially in the later stages.

More Resources:

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