The Center for Oral Health (COH) is moving its headquarters to Western University of Health Sciences’ Pomona, Calif. campus, allowing for greater collaboration and innovation in helping vulnerable populations.

“This affiliation with WesternU is a partnership made in heaven,” said COH Executive Director Conrado E. Bárzaga, MD. “The Center for Oral Health’s mission is to improve oral health through innovation, research, education and advocacy. Both entities see that this is a wonderful opportunity to create innovative solutions that will improve the way that oral health care is delivered in the United States.”

“We are at an inflection point in health care, and that inflection includes oral health care,” said College of Dental Medicine Dean Steven W. Friedrichsen, DDS. “Creating actual movement and real progress in improving oral health will require innovative and broadly applicable approaches. The College of Dental Medicine is excited to work with the Center for Oral Health in helping to promote positive changes, measure the impact of those changes and use the information to support the policies and political will needed for improved oral health.”

Founded in 1985, the Center for Oral Health is a California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting public oral health with a focus on children and vulnerable populations. COH collaborates with national, state and local partners to develop innovative community-based strategies for improving oral health.

COH has been headquartered in Oakland, and it will continue to maintain an office there as it continues to partner with institutions in northern California. All six California dental schools are represented on COH’s Board of Directors, and the center will continue to collaborate with them all, Bárzaga said.

“We are looking at opportunities to engage particularly the dental student community to participate in statewide projects under the leadership of the Center for Oral Health,” he said. “We’re especially looking at better understanding public policy implications and their impact on oral health and access to dental care, especially for vulnerable populations.”

“While COH was seeking a strong strategic alliance with one institution, they were pleased that we were interested in working not only collaboratively with COH, but with the other dental schools in the state and beyond,” Friedrichsen said. “It is anticipated that we will be working with projects that involve the six California dental schools and other regional and national schools and organizations and COH in multiple collaborative ventures.”

The College of Dental Medicine and the Center for Oral Health also share a vision of expanding responsibility for oral health beyond the dental profession. There is an interrelation between periodontal disease and pregnancy outcomes, as well as with many autoimmune and chronic diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, Bárzaga said.

COH will work with WesternU’s other colleges so future health care professionals understand that there are very important connections and interrelations between oral health status and overall health outcomes, he said.

“There is a disconnect between the dental community and the medical community that this affiliation will help bridge and foster an improvement in the quality of care that will be delivered by WesternU graduates,” Bárzaga said. “COH will also work with WesternU to provide support for community-based dental education and interprofessional education opportunities to reintegrate oral health as a dimension of general physical health and well-being.”