Dental Workforce Development

The following information is provided by the Office of Oral Health within the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

It has long been established that oral health is a vital component of overall health. With this in mind, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Office of Oral Health works in conjunction with other programs, as well as other offices, agencies and institutions, as part of the Division of Primary Care and Health Access to increase access to oral health services for all residents the state, especially vulnerable population groups. The Office engages in oral health surveillance, including the dental workforce, surveying dentists and dental hygienists annually during their license renewal.

A number of areas in Massachusetts meet the criteria of federal shortage designations in regards to dental services. To help attract and retain dental professionals to Massachusetts, the state offers a loan repayment program, for dentists and hygienists.  This includes funding for dentists working with developmentally disabled children and adults, as well as funding for public health dental hygienists and dentists in prescribed public health settings.

Lawrence Night

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is pleased to share with you our recently released report on the dental hygiene workforce within the Commonwealth. In 2007 the Department’s Office of Oral Health with the assistance of the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Dentistry, distributed a survey to all dental hygienists eligible for license renewal. The purpose of the survey was to determine the status, practices and potential utilization of the dental hygiene workforce.

A Report on the Commonwealth’s Dental Hygiene Workforce: Results and Recommendations from a 2007 Statewide Survey succinctly describes the oral health needs in our state by providing data from recent statewide oral health assessments and surveys. The report also provides an overview of the challenges faced by many communities throughout the Commonwealth that lack adequate access to oral health care services. It further highlights the state’s dental hygiene workforce as educated oral health professionals, who are experienced and yet, underutilized in addressing the oral health crisis within our state.

The Report recommends approaches that utilize the dental hygiene workforce to assist in reducing oral health disparities. On July 1, 2007, Massachusetts became the first state in the United States to require that all residents have a minimal level of health insurance. Health care reform allowed for MassHealth dental benefits for children living at 300% below the federal poverty level. Our report offers some solutions to increase access to oral health services for these children and all residents who are served by MassHealth.

A Report on the Commonwealth’s Dental Hygiene Workforce (PDF)