ADEA examines workforce models proposed in dentistry

Nov. 30, 2007
The American Dental Education Association releases report on "Emerging Allied Dental Workforce Models."

The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) released the report "Emerging Allied Dental Workforce Models: Considerations for Academic Dental Institutions" in the November issue of the Journal of Dental Education (JDE). The report describes several emerging workforce models that address strengthening the U.S. oral health care workforce. The models provide examples of how communities can expand allied dental professionals' responsibilities and provide improved access to oral health care in underserved communities.

Access to dental care is disproportionately distributed in this country, depending upon racial, ethnic, geographic, and socioeconomic factors. Extended employment of allied dental professionals is one way to increase access to oral health care. The models currently under consideration are in various stages of development. They include the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner (ADHP), the Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC), the Oral Preventive Assistant (OPA), and the Dental Health Aide Therapist (DHAT).

"ADEA recognizes the need for the extended employment of allied dental professionals, as it is one way to improve access to oral health care," said ADEA President James Q. Swift, DDS.

All the models under discussion would allow for individuals within their scope of practice to work in settings that treat underserved and unserved populations, while making referrals for patients who require more comprehensive oral health care. Designed by the American Dental Hygienists' Association, the ADHP would provide diagnostic, preventive, restorative, and therapeutic services and would require completion of an advanced education curriculum at the master's degree level.

The American Dental Association's model proposes two new positions that would function as part of the dental team. The OPA and the CDHC would work under the supervision of a dentist with a focus on providing patients with oral health education and information and the basic elements of preventive care and services. The CDHCs duties will also include oral health assessment and palliative care.

The DHAT model, created by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, focuses on prevention, pain and infection relief, and basic restorative services specifically for Alaskan natives.

Currently, 110 allied dental education programs in North America are ADEA institutional members. Their curricula are designed to educate future dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dental laboratory technicians. To receive a copy of the November JDE article "Emerging Allied Dental Workforce Models: Considerations for Academic Institutions," please email [email protected].