Research suggests that oral health is linked to systemic health, and those with poor oral health are potentially at greater risk for important diseases, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs) in Hawaii have high rates of many such diseases. Studies in children in Hawaii have revealed disparities in dental health; for example, API children have significantly higher rates of cavities than other groups. Hence, conducting further study is vital in adults, particularly APIs, to assess oral health and its correlation to overall health outcomes. Given the lack of a dental school and the lack of fluoridated water in the state, the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (ABSOM) has identified the need to assume a leadership role in creating effective community-based oral health research and treatment programs. With the support of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, JABSOM fostered a collaborative relationship with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry, a premiere research-intensive dental school, the Waimanalo Health Center, and the Hawaii State Department of Health. This partnership has worked together to implement a community-based approach to performing research designed to illuminate disparities and develop innovative strategies to promote oral health in Hawaii’s diverse populations. We hope that this collaborative, culturally competent approach may serve as a model for use in other settings without a research-intensive dental school.