California Oral Health Technical Assistance Center

Photo of dental technician teaching two children how to brush teeth on a plushy doll

About COHTAC: Helping California Advance Oral Health

When was the last time your primary care clinician asked you about your teeth?

Oral health is central to overall health in a way that is not commonly understood or supported by a model of primary care in the United States that carves out dentistry. Yet oral health problems can lead to heart and lung diseases, diabetes, stroke, and premature births. These impacts are worse for historically marginalized communities where health disparities are often compounded.

Recognizing the particularly poor oral health disparities in its state, the California State Legislature has mandated concerted efforts to improve population oral health by leveraging tobacco tax funding across three main goals:

  1. Establish state oral health leadership
  2. Focus on prevention and early intervention for children
  3. Innovate the dental delivery system to expand capacity

The California Department of Public Health re-established the Office of Oral Health (OOH) in 2014 to lead improvement efforts in local communities and statewide. OOH subsequently designed the California Oral Health Plan 2018-2028, a 10-year framework for collective action to assess and monitor oral health status and oral health disparities, prevent oral diseases, increase access to dental services, promote best practices, and advance evidence-based policies.

Dental disease is a hidden epidemic among California’s school children. More than 50% of kindergarteners and more than 70% of third-graders have experienced tooth decay, and more than 25%of them have untreated decay. Left untreated, tooth decay often has serious consequences, including needless pain and suffering, difficulty speaking and chewing, and lost days in school.

Many common oral health diseases are preventable with evidence-based interventions like community water fluoridation, school oral health programs (screening, sealant and fluoride varnish placement, referrals to dental homes), tobacco use cessation, and oral health literacy campaigns.

In partnership with the California Department of Public Health’s Office of Oral Health (OOH), the California Oral Health Technical Assistance Center (COHTAC) advances the 2018-2028 California Oral Health Plan by providing capacity building, training, and technical assistance to 60 local oral health programs (LOHPs) across the state and by supporting multiple workgroups committed to advancing oral health.

Led by UCSF faculty Kristin Hoeft and staff at Healthforce Center, COHTAC and OOH recently convened LOHPs at California’s Oral Health Summit on June 21-22, 2023, to connect and share their successes and challenges around three main topics: building and sustaining partnerships, quality improvement efforts, and implementing school oral health programs.

COHTAC Personnel

  • Kristin Hoeft, PhD, MPH, Principal Investigator
  • Aubri Kottek, MPH, Program Manager
  • Katie Conklin, RDH, MS, MPH, Specialist
  • Baharak Amanzadeh, DDS, MPH, Specialist
  • Sepideh Banava, DDS, MPH, Co-Investigator
  • Rebecca Hargreaves, MPP, Co-Investigator
  • Lisa Berens, DDS, MPH, Specialist
  • Gustavo Sanchez, BA, CHW, Program Administrator
  • Khadijat Alli, BA, Research Analyst

Learn More

COHTAC offers events and resources on their main website.