Safety net dental clinics strive to provide oral health care to many people and their families who have low incomes. Services are provided regardless of a person’s ability to pay. In general, safety net clinics are in communities where people with low incomes live.
This Web page provides a one-stop-shop for information, resources and support for Ohio's safety net dental clinics.
About Ohio's Safety Net Dental Clinics
Who do safety net dental clinics serve?
As part of their mission, safety net clinics generally serve people who:
- don’t have a regular dentist.
- are enrolled in Medicaid or don’t have adequate dental insurance.
- can’t afford to pay for care out-of-pocket.
- have more unmet oral health needs such as the elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, people who are medically compromised, children and those living in remote geographical areas.
Who operates safety net dental clinics?
Most safety net dental clinics are operated by public agencies, including public hospitals and health systems, local health departments or private, nonprofit corporations. The composition and functioning of the dental care safety net varies from one county or community to another. Ohio’s largest safety net dental clinics tend to be in dental schools or hospitals, where Medicaid is accepted but sliding fee schedules are rare. Reduced fees and payment plans, if available at all, tend to be handled on a case-by-case basis at these clinics.
The biggest group of clinics not in hospitals or dental schools tends to be federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and FQHC “look-alikes.” These clinics are more likely to offer sliding fee schedules or reduced fees based on family income.
What types of clinics are there?
Clinics can be fixed or mobile, and provide services that are comprehensive, preventive, and/or surgical.
Has the number of Ohio’s safety net dental clinics been growing?
The number of Ohio safety net dental clinics grew from 88 in 1999 (82% provided comprehensive services) to 122 in 2008, and to 178 (88% providing comprehensive services) in 2021. In addition, several clinics expanded capacity during this time. Much of the support for this growth came through grants from the Ohio Department of Health and some Ohio charitable foundations.
ODH Funding for Ohio’s Safety Net Dental Clinics
The Ohio Department of Health provides funding to several of Ohio's safety net dental clinics to help offset the cost of uncompensated care. Funding supports dental services for Ohioans who have low incomes and are uninsured for dental care.
Currently funded agencies are listed below.
Safety Net Dental Care Grants
Calendar Year 2023 (Jan. 3, 2023 to Dec. 31, 2023) Year 1 of 3
Erie County Health Department
Cincinnati City Health Department
Mercy Health – Youngstown
Third Street Family Health Services
- American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry posts current definitions, oral health policies, and clinical guidelines
- American Academy of Pediatrics posts policy documents including policy statements, clinical practice guidelines, technical reports, affirmations of value, and parent pages.
- American Dental Association (ADA) posts policies and statements online. Topics include amalgam, antibiotic prophylaxis, anesthesia and pain control, dental benefits and claims, evidence-based dentistry, ethics, fluoride and sealants, infection control (including HIV), medications, piercing and tongue splitting, radiography/X-rays, and tobacco and nicotine.
- Clinical Recommendations, from the ADA's Center for Evidence-Based Dentistry
- Oral Health Topics, such as Antibiotic Prophylaxis
- American Dental Hygienists' Association offers evidence-based clinical recommendations under Professional Practice Resources.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Basic Expectations for Safe Care Training Modules, a slide series of 10 modules that covers the basic principles of infection prevention and control that can be used to train infection prevention coordinators, educators, consultants and other dental health care personnel
- Summary of Infection Prevention Practices in Dental Settings: Basic Expectations for Safe Care
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) DentalCheck is now available on Android and iOS devices. Dental health care personnel can use this app to periodically assess infection prevention and control practices in their facility and ensure they are meeting the minimum expectations for safe care. The infection prevention coordinator and other staff are encouraged to use this app at least annually to review policies and observe patient-care practices. CDC’s DentalCheck app is developed directly from the Infection Prevention Checklist for Dental Settings.
- The American Journal of Cardiology and Journal of Periodontology Editors' Consensus: Periodontitis and Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease consensus paper
Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas
A dental health professional shortage area (HPSA) is a geographic area where there aren’t enough dentists to serve the dental needs of the people living there. The designation is used primarily for the purposes of giving loan repayment to dentists and dental hygienists. For more information about loan repayment, visit the Primary Care Office website and click on Workforce Programs in the left-hand menu. An area must meet three requirements to become a HPSA:
- The area must be defined as a “rational service area,” meaning that the area must be homogenous and logical in terms of demographics, socio-economics and physical barriers. Often, rural HPSAs are defined either by county or a group of townships. Urban HPSAs are described by defined neighborhoods or groups of census tracts.
- A specific dentist-to-population ratio for each type of HPSA must be met.
- The application for the HPSA must verify that there are not enough dental services available in neighboring areas for the population seeking the designation.
A map of the Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and safety net dental programs in Ohio.
Requests for dental HPSA designations can be made at any time. Each designation is periodically updated. For more detailed information (e.g., townships or census tracts contained in each HPSA), access the national Health Professional Shortage Area database maintained by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.
For more information, please contact:
Ohio Department of Health, Primary Care Office
246 N. High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Telephone: (614) 644-8508
Dental Practice Act and Regulations
Definition of Special Needs Program [Section 4715-3-01 (O) (1)]
- Ohio Administrative Code: 3701-3-11 Requirements related to human immunodeficiency virus testing
- Dental X-Ray Equipment
E-Newsletters and Discussion Lists
- Community Oral Health Programs is a forum for communication between local oral health directors and personnel to discuss the operation of local oral health programs. Subscribe online on the Community Oral Health Programs Discussion List page.
- The Dental Public Health List Serve is intended for dental public health professionals and policymakers. Subscribe online.
Funding for Dental Safety Net Programs
The following list includes key oral health grantmaking organizations in Ohio. Information on funding cycles, areas of interest, and requirements are posted online. Visit each organization's website to learn more.
- Cleveland Foundation
- Delta Dental Foundation
- Dental Trade Alliance Foundation
- Finance Fund
- Grantmakers in Health
- The Greater Cincinnati Foundation
- The HealthPath Foundation of Ohio
- Interact for Health
- Ohio Dental Association Foundation
- Ohio Department of Health School-Based Dental Sealant Program
- Ohio United Way
- OhioHealth Foundation
- Osteopathic Heritage Foundations
- Philanthropy Ohio
- St. Luke's Foundation of Cleveland, Ohio
- Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton
- The Toledo Community Foundation
- HRSA Connector
Enter "dentist" or "dental hygienist" and selection "Ohio."
- National Network for Oral Health Access's Job Bank
Search job postings by city and state.
- Bulletin Board: To submit a posting for this page, please send an e-mail to BMCFH@odh.ohio.gov.
The City of Cincinnati is seeking a full-time dentist to work in its Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Primary Health Care System. The dentist would have the opportunity to join a team of dentists committed to excellence in patient care and to making a real impact on the serving community. The ideal candidate should enjoy challenging treatment plans, oral surgery, removable prosthodontics and pediatrics. Most importantly, the candidate should be compassionate, patient and empathetic. The Cincinnati Health Department offers competitive salaries, generous fringe benefits including health, dental and vision insurance, malpractice coverage, paid holidays, vacation and sick time, CE opportunities and federal loan repayment. Working hours are primarily during the week days. To inquire further about this opportunity, please contact Nancy Carter at 513-357-7383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- NorthEast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services, Inc. (NEON) in Cleveland is seeking several dental professionals for our FQHC network of community health centers. To apply, please send resume/CV to Vicki Marie at email@example.com. See available positions below:
NEON is dedicated to improving access and reducing health disparities in Greater Cleveland. Primary care services include family medicine, adult medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, OB/GYN, behavioral health. On-site ancillary services include: laboratory, pharmacy, x-ray, mammography and ultrasound. Patients have access to services seven days a week through extended evening and weekend hours. NEON is accredited by the Joint Commission, and an NHSC and Ohio Dentist Loan Repayment eligible site.
- Dental Hygienist: Performs dental x-rays and oral examinations of patient's teeth and gingival structures using dental instruments and probes to locate periodontal and gum disease. Evaluates and documents condition of decay and disease for diagnosis and treatment by dentist. Performs cleaning of calcareous deposits, accretions and stains from teeth and beneath margins of gums and applies fluoride and other cavity preventing agents to arrest dental decay. Plays a key role in the oral health care team in promoting good oral health and related disease prevention. Participates in community dental health education programs, outreach and health fairs when needed. Graduate of an accredited dental hygiene school and passage of regional or state licensing board examinations as applicable. State of Ohio Dental Hygiene license and current State of Ohio Radiograph license.
- Dentist: Responsible for providing coordinated and quality dental care for adults and children. Provides full range of preventive and diagnostic services including cleanings, exams and treatment planning. Implements treatment plans and performs restorative procedures such as fillings, crowns and root canal treatments, as well as extractions and fixed and removable prosthodontics. Provides oral health education and counseling. Performs other procedures, prescribing and referring patients for specialized consultation. Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) with unrestricted license to practice in the State of Ohio is required. Residency is preferred but not required.
Information about Medicaid for Safety Net Dental Clinics
- Department of Medicaid
- Healthchek (Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment) Program Rules
- Medicaid Fee Schedule
- Medicaid Rules for Ambulatory Health Care Clinics
- Medicaid Rules for Dental Providers
- Ohio Medicaid Basics 2021 from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio
- Ohio Medicaid Provider Assistance
- Provider Support from Managed Care Plans
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Medicaid Dental Coverage