Dental Health

Dental Health Crisis

Portland, Oregon is in the midst of a dental health crisis where one in five children (or 21%) is currently suffering from untreated tooth decay, with kids in low-income families having even worse rates of decay.  Poor dental health is the number one reason kids visit emergency rooms and the most common chronic disease among children. Nearly half of children experience dental decay before kindergarten. Dental disease can lead to missed school days, increased healthcare costs, and chronic pain. 

Why It Matters

Dental health is a window into your overall health. Strong and healthy teeth are a foundation for maintaining good health, happiness, and productivity. Dental decay can be painful, cause infections, and lead to tooth loss. Furthermore, the consequences of poor dental health are linked to other chronic health issues, including heart disease.

The pain caused by decay reduces children’s ability to concentrate and learn at school. It impacts their speech development, damages their self-esteem, and sets them up for a lifetime of ongoing expensive restorative dental care. In adults, treating poor dental health has tremendous costs. It is responsible for countless missed work days and decreased productivity, and it hinders employment opportunities due to employer and customer discrimination.

What We’re Doing

At Upstream, we believe all kids should have the opportunity to receive dental services to prevent and treat painful cavities.

In 2014-15, we launched new efforts with licensed childcare providers from around the state to implement dental services and provide dental health education to parents so kids in childcare can have healthier teeth. 

Dental Health for Babies & Children: A Resource Guide (printable .pdf)

In 2016, we hired a Health Coordinator and a Health Educator to conduct outreach and training related to nutrition and dental health to childcare centers that provide services to children of low-income families.  The program will assist metro-area childcare centers implement nutrition and dental policies and establish daily toothbrushing protocols. In addition, by providing access to an annual professional dental screening and fluoride varnish application for each child, this program will lessen the detrimental affects of dental caries for children ages 0-5 years.

Upstream previously served on the committee that developed the Oregon State Oral Health Strategic Plan, and on the City Club of Portland’s Dental Health Task Force to identify ‘best practices’ to reduce tooth decay in our state and help us determine what would be best applied in Multnomah County.

What You Can Do

If you can help connect Upstream to a metro-area childcare center serving low-income kids, please contact Ann Gilbert, Dental Health Coordinator, at 503-913-4421.

Our Successes So Far

In 2012 Upstream led the effort to get City Council to unanimously pass legislation to fluoridate Portland's water supply. Unfortunately, this was referred to the ballot and fluoridation failed in 2013. Upstream was the leader of the Healthy Kids Healthy Portland Coalition, which supported water fluoridation in Portland. This coalition was supported by a broad coalition of public health leaders and organizations, grassroots activists, elected officials, unions, physicians and dentists, local businesses and, community groups, and individuals that believe in improving dental health.

Local Community Water Fluoridation Supporters & Healthy Kids Healthy Portland Coalition Members

Access Dental Plan
Advantage Dental
African American Health Coalition
African Partnership for Health
African Women’s Coalition
Asian Health & Service Center
Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO)
Capitol Dental Care
CareOregon Dental
Center for Intercultural Organizing
Central City Concern
The Children’s Clinic, P.C.
Children’s Health Alliance
Coalition of Communities of Color
Dental Foundation of Oregon
East Portland Pediatrics Clinic
Familias en Acción
Friends of Creston Children‘s Dental Clinic
Hacienda CDC
Health Share of Oregon
Healthy Teeth for a Lifetime
Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber
Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)
Kaiser Permanente Northwest
Latino Network
Laurelwood Dental
Legacy Health
Lutheran Community Services
Medical Society of Metropolitan Portland
Neighborhood Health Centers
Northwest Medical Teams International
Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA)
North by Northeast Community Health Center
Northwest Health Foundation
OEA Choice Trust
OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon
Open Meadow
Oral Health Outreach
Oregon Academy of Family Physicians
Oregon Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Oregon Academy of General Dentistry
Oregon Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
Oregon Business Association
Oregon Chapter, National Association of Social Workers
Oregon Dental Association
Oregon Dental Assistants Association
Oregon Dental Hygienists’ Association
Oregon Dental Services Companies
Oregon Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals, AFT Healthcare Local 5017, AFL-CIO
Oregon Latino Health Coalition
Oregon Latino Agenda for Action
Oregon Medical Association
Oregon Nurses Association
Oregon Oral Health Coalition
Oregon Primary Care Association
Oregon Public Health Association
Oregon Public Health Institute
Oregon State Council for Retired Senior Citizens
Oregon’s Health Co-op
Oregon School Nurses Association
Oregon School-Based Health Care Network
Pediatric Dentistry, P.C.
Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Oregon
Portland Public School Board
Project Access NOW
Providence Health & Services — Oregon
Portland Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon
SEIU Local 49 and Local 503
Street Roots
UFCW Local 555
Urban League of Portland
Upright Brewing Company
Upstream Public Health
Tuality Healthcare
Tuality Health Alliance
Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center
Willamette Dental
17 separate local dental societies

National and International Organizations That Recognize the Public Health Benefits of Community Water Fluoridation for Preventing Dental Decay

Academy of Dentistry International
Academy of General Dentistry Academy for Sports Dentistry
Alzheimer’s Association
America’s Health Insurance Plans
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
American Academy of Periodontology
American Academy of Physician Assistants
American Association for Community Dental Programs
American Association for Dental Research
American Association for Health Education
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association of Endodontists
American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
American Association of Orthodontists
American Association of Public Health Dentistry
American Association of Women Dentists
American College of Dentists
American College of Physicians–American Society of Internal Medicine
American College of Preventive Medicine
American College of Prosthodontists
American Council on Science and Health
American Dental Assistants Association
American Dental Association
American Dental Education Association
American Dental Hygienists’ Association
American Dietetic Association
American Federation of Labor and Congress
of Industrial Organizations
American Hospital Association
American Legislative Exchange Council
American Medical Association
American Nurses Association
American Osteopathic Association
American Pharmacists Association
American Public Health Association
American School Health Association
American Society for Clinical Nutrition
American Society for Nutritional Sciences
American Student Dental Association
American Water Works Association
Association for Academic Health Centers
Association of American Medical Colleges
Association of Clinicians for the Underserved
Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
Association of State and Territorial Public Health
Nutrition Directors
British Fluoridation Society
Canadian Dental Association
Canadian Dental Hygienists Association
Canadian Medical Association
Canadian Nurses Association
Canadian Paediatric Society
Canadian Public Health Association
Child Welfare League of America
Children’s Dental Health Project
Consumer Federation of America
Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists
Delta Dental Plans Association
FDI World Dental Federation
Federation of American Hospitals
Hispanic Dental Association
Indian Dental Association (U.S.A.)
Institute of Medicine
International Association for Dental Research
International Association for Orthodontics
International College of Dentists
March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
National Association of Community Health Centers
National Association of County and City Health Officials
National Association of Dental Assistants
National Association of Local Boards of Health
National Association of Social Workers
National Dental Assistants Association
National Dental Association
National Dental Hygienists’ Association
National Down Syndrome Congress
National Down Syndrome Society
National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped
National Head Start Association
National Health Law Program
National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition
Oral Health America
Pew Center on the States
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Society for Public Health Education
Society of American Indian Dentists
Special Care Dentistry
Academy of Dentistry for Persons with Disabilities
American Association of Hospital Dentists
American Society for Geriatric Dentistry
The Children’s Health Fund
The Dental Health Foundation (of California)
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
U.S. Public Health Service
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
World Federation of Orthodontists
World Health Organization