• health policy;
  • access;
  • dental education;
  • workforce reform;
  • inequities;
  • oral health;
  • loan repayment;
  • educational debt


The USA dental education programmes are facing challenges similar to those confronting countries around the globe, particularly amongst the industrialised nations. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the educational programmes of 15 USA dental schools to determine their impact on improving workforce diversity and oral health care access. The study investigates the predictors of public service plans of dental school seniors in Pipeline and non-Pipeline Program dental schools. We analysed baseline and post-intervention data collected in the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) Annual Survey of Dental School Seniors and a set of contextual variables. Public service plans (dependent variable) was predicted by four types of independent variables: intervention, contextual, community-based dental education (CBDE), and student characteristics. Findings from the study show that access to a state or federally sponsored loan repayment program was the most significant predictor of public service plans and that increasing educational debt was the most significant barrier. In the short-term we may be able to sustain the USA loan repayment programs to motivate senior dental students to provide public service to address the oral health care access crisis. However, in the long-term, a new workforce development initiative will be required to transform dental education and practice, modelled after the well-respected licensure programmes for Physician Assistants and/or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, to expand oral health care access, particularly amongst vulnerable population subgroups, such as low-income children and families.