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Oral Health

Oral health is an integral part of the well-being of all Pennsylvanians.  The Pennsylvania Department of Health's Oral Health Program (Program) strives to reinforce the concept that you cannot be truly healthy without good oral health.  The Program puts a special emphasis on populations that have limited access to dental preventive and treatment sources and information.

The Program leads the efforts of developing and implementing the stakeholder-driven Pennsylvania Oral Health Plan 2020-2030, by collaborating with other governmental agencies and local community groups and associations on good oral health promotional efforts and actions.  The Program focuses on the following areas among others:

  • Prevention of oral disease through the stressing of proper personal and community preventive behavior and actions including:
    • Community water fluoridation
    • School-based and school-linked sealant programs for low income children
    • Routine oral cancer screenings
    • Proper oral hygiene behavior by parents and children
  • Assessment of oral health status of the Pennsylvania population.
  • Access to dental health services for the underserved.

Prior Plans

2017-2020 Pennsylvania Oral Health Plan

Pennsylvania Oral Health Basic Screening Survey

2021-2022 Oral Health Basic Screening Survey of Third-Graders

With support from the Pennsylvania Coalition for Oral Health (PCOH), a basic screening survey (BSS) was conducted on third-grade children to collect data on their oral health status during the 2021-2022 academic year.  This report summarizes the findings of the state-wide sample and provides valuable insights into the current oral health status of children in third-grade in Pennsylvania, informing future policies and programs promoting oral health among the state's youth.

Community water fluoridation

After over 75 years, community water fluoridation remains the cornerstone of tooth decay prevention in the United States and worldwide. The Pennsylvania Department of Health Oral Health Program (Program) endorses this proven public health measure. Watch the Community Water Fluoridation video.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral released from rocks into the soil and water. Fluoride is found in all-natural water sources at various amounts. Fluoride has been shown to strengthen and protect teeth from tooth decay or dental caries.  Dental caries is the most common chronic disease affecting children. Severe cases of dental caries can often cause pain, infection, and poor overall health.

Community water fluoridation is the adjustment of fluoride to drinking water to increase the natural fluoride level up to the recommended level that prevents tooth decay. Drinking fluoridated water reduces tooth decay in children and adults. The public is encouraged to drink tap water to receive its maximum benefits.

Community water fluoridation has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.  It has received the approval of the past five (5) Surgeon Generals of the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dental Association, American Public Health Association, U.S. Public Health Service and many other notable organizations and agencies.  The evidence from numerous academic, government, and independent studies over the years has continued to demonstrate that community water fluoridation is safe, effective, and economical resulting in significant benefits and cost-savings to communities.

Community water fluoridation benefits the oral health of all people, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.  The Pennsylvania Department of Health acknowledges and appreciates the key role community water fluoridation plays in the Commonwealth's goal to achieve health equity and reduce health disparities.

For more information about the safety and benefits of community water fluoridation, visit

To see how Program is promoting community water fluoridation, review the Community Water Fluoridation:  A Plan for Pennsylvania.

Oral Health Resources

Pennsylvania Coalition for Oral Health (PCOH):
PCOH is the state oral health coalition, made up of a diverse group of leaders from across the state from schools of public health, philanthropic organizations, businesses, dental organizations, health insurance firms, advocacy organization, state agencies, and other champions. The PCOH website houses a searchable resource tool as well as an events calendar with information that is helpful to oral health advocates.

Safety Net Dental Clinics:
Safety net clinics are most often non-profit, community-sponsored dental clinics that see patients with limited access to dental care, such as those with low-income or patients on public insurance who cannot find a private dentist willing to see them.  Dental treatment is either done at no cost or on a sliding scale.  Each program has limitations and availability of appointments, so call to find out the specifics of a clinic near you. To identify nearby clinics, follow the below link, and then click on the desired county(s) to see a list of the clinics in that county(s).

PA 211:
Pennsylvania 211 connects Pennsylvanians in need with resources and services in their community that improve their lives.

Free Clinic Association of Pennsylvania:
The Free Clinic Association of Pennsylvania (FCAP) provides education, advocacy and support to free and charitable clinics operating in Pennsylvania.

Donated Dental Services:
Donated Dental Services (DDS) program in Pennsylvania provides dental services for indigent residents of Pennsylvania who are either over age 65, or who have physical or mental disabilities, or who are otherwise medically compromised.  DDS can be reached at 844-489-9446 (toll-free).

State Sponsored Health Payment Programs for Low-income Patients:

Pennsylvania's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP):
Call 1-800-986-KIDS for information or follow above link.

HealthCare/Medical Assistance:
Medical Assistance, also known as Medicaid, and sometimes referred to as MA, pays for health care services for eligible individuals.

Pennie is the official health insurance marketplace for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Information on State Loan Repayment Programs, Shortage area Designations, Challenge Grants, Practice Opportunities:

View information about the Pennsylvania Primary Health Care Loan Repayment Program.

National Health Service Corp:
The National Health Service Corp (NHSC) provides comprehensive team-based health care that bridges geographic, financial, cultural, and language barriers.  The NHSC works closely with the Health Resources and Services Administration to recruit primary care clinicians for communities in need.