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Envisioning an oral healthcare workforce for the future


David A. Nash, D.M.D, M.S., Ed. D College of Dentistry, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40536, USA

Tel.:+859 323 2026

Fax: +858 323 4685



Health is critical to human well-being. Oral health is an integral component of health. One is not healthy without oral health. As health is essential to human flourishing, it is important that an oral healthcare delivery system and workforce be developed and deployed which can help ensure all citizens have the potential to access oral health care. As such access does not generally exist today, it is imperative to advance the realization of this goal and to develop a vision of an oral healthcare workforce to functionally support access. Public funding of basic oral health care is an important element to improving access. However, funding is only economically feasible if a workforce exists that is structured in a manner such that duties are assigned to individuals who have been uniquely trained to fulfill specific clinical responsibilities. An essential element of any cost-effective organizational system must be the shared responsibility of duties. Delegation must occur in the oral health workforce if competent, cost-effective care is to be provided. Desirable members of the oral health team in an efficient and effective system are as follows: generalist dentists who are educated as physicians of the stomatognathic system (oral physicians), specialist dentists, dental therapists, dental hygienists, dually trained hygienists/therapists (oral health therapists), oral prosthetists (denturists), and expanded function dental assistants (dental nurses).