The Pediatric Dental Workforce is Changing: What Does it Mean for Patient Outcomes?


Elizabeth MertzJoanne Spetz and Jean Moore

June 2, 2017

Research examining productivity, quality and outcomes of traditional pediatric dental care are generally lacking. The literature shows that education, qualifications, and roles are changing with case examples of success, but what these changes portend for patient care remains an open question. New dental team configurations show promise to improve oral health literacy and access to pediatric dental care. However, some workforce innovations are currently geographically restricted to a few areas of the country and often to certain settings or populations. Although shown to be safe and effective within their scope of practice, it is still unclear what impact new dental care providers will have on the care system or population health. In addition, there has been movement in the last decade to engage medical providers in screening, referral, and prevention activities for the oral health care of children, particularly in primary care settings. It is widely acknowledged that improving children’s oral health will require a team-based approach. The biggest challenge for the future of pediatric dental care will be how to train, deploy, coordinate, and fund these teams in a patient-centered model of care.

Key points:

  • There are many new workforce models being deployed to address children’s oral health.
  • Evaluations of these models are variable, showing safety and effectiveness but rarely impact on health outcomes.
  • Health professions regulatory barriers exist that restrict the ability to fully deploy new models.

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