NRHA National Rural Oral Health Initiative

The National Rural Oral Health Initiative is the combined effort of the National Rural Health Association and the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health to improve oral health disparities amongst rural Americans. The efforts of the combined organizations focus on Policy, Communications, Education, and Research; to help spread awareness and prioritize person centered care across the board. As oral health issues have plagued those in rural communities - this initiative is designed to enhance the access to quality oral health care for all, while connecting groups to the resources they need to help patients.
NRHA has released the association 2020 Compendium of Rural Health Best Practices. The compendium contains best practices in programs, models, and policies aimed at enhancing access to quality rural oral health care. The NRHA previously released the 2017 Compendium of Rural Oral Health Best Practices.
The specific purpose of the National Rural Oral Health Initiative is to provide guidance on rural oral health care with the intent to establish oral health care as part of primary care, thereby increasing health care access for all rural Americans.

The initiative is focused on:
  • Policy: Development of a special rural oral health interest group to provide policy recommendations/analysis that target legislative and regulatory barriers.
  • Communications: Disseminate rural oral health information and a compendium of best practices via NRHA.
  • Education: Integrate rural oral health-related tracks within NRHA conferences, rural community health worker training, and within strategies utilized by state rural health associations.
  • Research: Advance rural oral health-related research and policy.

Resources and Information

COVID-19 Oral Health Resources:  
  • Kaiser Family Foundation Medicaid Emergency Authority Tracker: This page aggregates tracking information on approved Medicaid emergency authorities to address the COVID-19 Coronavirus emergency. 
  • American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) COVID-19 Updates for Dental Hygienists: This regularly updated resource provides information and guidance for dental hygienists regarding COVID-19. 
  • American Dental Association (ADA) COVID-19 Recommendations: Recommendations (released March 16) that dentists nationwide postpone elective procedures in response to the spread of COVID-19.
  • American Institute of Dental Public Health (AIDPH) Resource Round-Up: COVID 19: This regularly updated site includes resources for public health professionals on how to approach COVID-19 response.
  • American Public Health Association (APHA) Oral Health Section Statement on COVID-19: The Oral Health Section of APHA advises all dental offices and clinics to voluntarily limit dental care to emergencies and urgent situations only. 
  • National Network for Oral Health Access State by State Recommendations for Dental Clinics: This spreadsheet tracks recommendations from state public health officials for the provision of dental care with respect to COVID-19.
    • The National Network for Oral Health Access also has a Resource Center for federal re-opening criteria.

National Rural Oral Health Initiative Taskforce Topic Papers:
The National Rural Oral Health Initiative Taskforce is a group of rural oral health professionals formed for the express purpose of studying and guiding NRHAs oral health positions. The group helps guide our rural oral policy track and where our technical assistance would be needed most. The Taskforce identified the following topics as a few of the many issues currently facing rural oral health that deserved to be further researched. The following Topic Papers were reviewed by the Taskforce and curated by NRHA staff.
2022 NROHI Coverage Topic Paper
2022 NROHI Telemedicine Topic Paper
2022 NROHI Workforce Topic Paper 

NRHA Oral Health Advocacy Agenda
The National Rural Oral Health Initiative Taskforce worked with NRHA's government affairs team to develop an advocacy agenda to further oral health policies at the federal level.
2023 - 2024 NRHA Oral Health Advocacy Agenda

NRHA Rural Oral Health Compendium:
2020 Compendium of Rural Oral Health Best Practices
2017 Compendium of Rural Oral Health Best Practices

  • Smiles for Life is a national oral health curriculum that covers the relationship between oral health and systemic health. The curriculum distributes educational resources to ensure the integration of oral health and primary care. The coursework focuses on care in childhood, adulthood, pregnancy, and preventive services including fluoride varnish application.
  • The Rural Oral Health Toolkit is a curriculum designed to help you identify and implement an oral health programs in your rural communities. A series of modules will take you through different outlooks of oral health programs while giving your resources to use in your area.

State of Your State: Rural Oral Health Information

Rural Veterans Oral Health Resources and Information:

Teledentistry Resources:       

Water Fluorination Information and Resources:  

Health Equity and Racial Disparities:  

OPEN Network:
The Oral Health Progress and Equity Network is a free membership group that helps communities report and gain access to oral health information. The groups goals are to build a comprehensive national oral health measurement system, integrate oral health into person centered health care, and improve the overall perception of oral health care. The OPEN Network is dedicated to being change agents and wants to bring attention to the oral health disparities in rural communities:
You can sign up to be a part of their community here.


CareQuest Institute for Oral Health
The CareQuest Institute for Oral Health is a national nonprofit championing a more equitable future where every person can reach their full potential through optimal health. They operate as a catalyst for systems change, bringing forth ideas and solutions to create a more accessible, equitable, and integrated health system for everyone. The CareQuest Institute for Oral Health is passionate about and committed to revolutionizing oral health to create an effective and equitable system that results in improved oral health and well-being for everyone.

For more information, contact Zil Joyce Dixon Romero or Laura Hudson.