Safety Net Dental Clinic Manual


This is a manual designed for you—no matter whether you’re an experienced clinic director, a new administrator, or somewhere in between. We know how challenging running a safety net dental clinic is, and that’s where the manual comes in—to help you with just about everything related to clinic development and operations.

Experienced clinic director? New clinic administrator? Either way, you've come to the right place. You may view the units as a series of steps to follow when launching a dental clinic or focus on particular topics of interest. The manual includes a wealth of resources on topics to make your life easier: tools like supply lists, floor plans, photographs, budget worksheets, quality-improvement plans, fact sheets, and websites and other resources on topics like clinic policies, clinic efficiency, professional standards, funding strategies, and clinic design.

Perhaps you are a safety net dental clinic director facing major challenges. Your clinic has a long waiting list and has been mired in red ink for years. You want to make the clinic efficient and sustainable. You don't know whether the solution lies in improved staffing patterns, revised clinic policies, or facility design. Or is the problem that you lack a business plan? This manual discusses the pros and cons of various options and links to other resources to help you make decisions.

The dental care safety net is where people go

  • When they don't have a regular dentist
  • Because they know their Medicaid card will be accepted
  • Because they won't be turned away when they are in pain and can't afford care
  • Because the clinic is close to home and linked to their other health care providers

The Institute of Medicine's report, America's Health Care Safety Net (2000), defines safety net providers as those who "organize and deliver a significant level of health care and other health-related services to uninsured, Medicaid, and other vulnerable patients." Safety net clinics may be operated by federally qualified health centers, local health departments, neighborhood health centers that are private not-for-profit agencies, rural health centers, Indian Health Service or tribal units, institutions, schools, hospitals, or other entities.

The Surgeon General's Report, Oral Health in America (2000), provides a thorough review of the nation's oral health and the need for both community-based and individual approaches to prevention and treatment of oral conditions. It also emphasizes that oral health is essential to general health and that systemic conditions influence oral health. Despite advances in technology and the scientific understanding of oral diseases, significant disparities exist in oral disease rates and access to dental care among subgroups of the population. The dental safety net attempts to bridge the gap for these disenfranchised groups.

DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement’s Safety Net Solutions and the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center have created this revised edition, in collaboration with a team of experts. The original manual was produced by the Ohio Department of Health’s Bureau of Oral Health Services in collaboration with the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors and Indian Health Services. We gratefully acknowledge the expertise and effort of all collaborators over the span of the manual's lifetime.