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Oral Health Care: A Whole New Language

Course Number: 21

Oral Health Care Professions and Personnel

In a new land, it is good to know the people and how they relate to one another. The following are the natives, so to speak, of the new land of oral health care. The Oral Health Care Team is generally composed of the dentist, dental therapist, dental hygienist, dental assistant, dental laboratory technician and office support staff who work together to meet the many varied dental needs of the patient.

A team of professionals provides oral health care. Typically, general dentists and dental hygienists provide primary oral care. Dental assistants and dental laboratory technicians provide support for care. Expanded duty (function) dental auxiliaries (EDDA or EFDA) may also provide direct oral health care under the supervision of a dentist. Dental hygienists and others may be qualified to sit for EDDA or EFDA certification examinations. In select areas, new mid-level providers, such as advanced dental hygiene practitioners and dental therapists, are being used to help expand access to care.

Outside of the dental profession, medical providers are also a critical component of the team of providers for oral health. Otolaryngologists, or Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialists, treat conditions of the head and neck including cancers of the mouth and throat. Primary medical care providers, such as physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, are also assuming a greater role in identifying oral disease and helping the patient obtain the oral health care he or she needs.