Models for Care

Essentially, dental providers are in the unique management position to provide the link to comprehensive oral health care. The introduction of professional dental hygiene care, fluoride, and dental sealants have, more than any other factors, influenced the reduction in oral disease rates.18

The inter-professional practice of dentistry would undoubtedly improve access to care. In fact, the movement of dental practice into the health care systems, preschool and school based clinics would potentially address many access issues. The potentials are limitless, such as primary care clinics, pediatric offices, emergency rooms, Head Start programs, home health care, and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition settings.

Teledentistry is a model that has the potential to increase access to care for many populations. Utilizing electronic health records, including photographs and radiographs, dentists can provide diagnoses and treatment plans for non-dentist providers. These providers can then provide care to populations who have difficulty accessing dentists for care. This model will undoubtedly become utilized increasingly in the future, as more providers move to electronic health records.

These ideas are becoming a reality in many states, especially those with unrestrictive practice acts for dental hygienists.15 The dental team can truly function as a team within an interprofessional system of providers and care and increased access to care. The more the population regularly access preventive dental care, the more likely values for dental prevention will improve on a societal level.