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FIGURE 3-1 Oral health literacy framework.

SOURCE: Adapted from IOM, 2004.

the same degree of oral health. The report described the silent epidemic of oral diseases that affect the nation’s most vulnerable members. The report also concluded that although common dental diseases are preventable, not all members of society are informed about or are able to avail themselves of appropriate oral health promoting measures. Similarly, not all health providers may be aware of the services needed to improve oral health. Improvements in oral health will require educating the public, providers, and policy makers about the science-based interventions that prevent oral diseases.

In 2003, specific actions to promote oral health were identified in A National Call to Action to Promote Oral Health (HHS, 2003). This report, which resulted from a public–private partnership between the Office of the Surgeon General and various organizations, identified five major actions that are needed:

  1. Change perceptions of oral health.
  2. Overcome barriers by replicating effective programs and proven efforts.
  3. Build the science base and accelerate science transfer.
  4. Increase workforce diversity, capacity, and flexibility.
  5. Increase collaborations.


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