Delivering community-based oral health care requires careful planning and consideration. No two community-based care environments are the same. The dental provider should begin by formulating a team consisting of the dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, administrator(s) and key personnel from the organization being served. This team may also include funders. It is the role of this team to determine the needs of the population and examine potential interventions to meet those needs.
Table 1 outlines some basic information that needs to be collected by the team. The team must take into consideration the population and their individual needs. Most likely the team will need to complete a population profile or community profile and needs assessment to determine the appropriate intervention. This profile will provide a thorough description of the demographics of the population to be served. This can be accomplished by examining published data, screening the oral health of individuals who will be receiving care, surveying individuals and/or guardians, surveying personnel from the location being served, and/or conducting a focus group. It is at this stage that a champion from the organization or community will be identified to help build acceptance of the program.
When the needs have been determined, the team will begin planning a program. Figure 2 provides a list of questions that community organizations have been advised to ask dental service providers to determine the type of oral health program that will best meet the needs of individuals served by the organization. The dental provider should be well prepared to answer and discuss these questions.