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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration

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Oral Health Workforce

An oral health professional at work

Disparities in oral health and access to dental care raise questions about the adequacy of the current supply of oral health providers. 

Fewer than half of children enrolled in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program nationally are receiving at least one preventive dental service in a year, and there remains a wide variation across states.

The U.S. currently has nearly 5,000 designated dental Health Professional Shortage Areas, primarily affecting low income and rural populations.  

To improve access to oral health care, HRSA supports programs that expand the workforce and encourage practitioners to care for underserved people.

Integration of Oral Health with Primary Care Practice

The Integration of Oral Health and Primary Care Practice initiative strives to improve access to early detection and preventive interventions by expanding oral health clinical competency of primary care clinicians, leading to improved oral health. Learn more: Integration of Oral Health and Primary Care Practice

Scholarships

National Health Service Corps Scholarship pays tuition, fees, other education costs and a living stipend in exchange for at least 2 years of service at an approved facility in a high-need Health Professional Shortage Area. Dental students are eligible to apply.

Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students funds health professions schools, which in turn award scholarships to full-time, financially needy students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The schools determine student need and select recipients. Scholarships may cover tuition, reasonable educational expenses and reasonable living expenses. Students apply at participating schools.

Loans

Dentist and young girlLoans for Disadvantaged Students funds health professions schools, which in turn make long-term, low-interest rate loans to full-time, financially needy students. Students apply at participating schools.

Health Professions Student Loan funds health professions schools, which in turn make long-term, low interest rate loans to full-time, financially needy students. Students apply at participating schools.

Loan Repayment

National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment provides as much as $145,000 towards student loan repayment. The program starts with an initial award of $50,000 for 2 years service at an approved facility in a Health Professional Shortage Area. Dentists and dental hygienists are eligible to apply.

Faculty Loan Repayment Program provides as much as $40,000, plus a tax benefit, towards repayment of student loans in exchange for 2 years service on the faculty of an accredited health professions college or university. Dental faculty are eligible to apply. In 2010, pediatric dentists will benefit additional funding.

Workforce Development

Pre-doctoral Training in General Dentistry, Pediatric Dentistry, and Dental Public Health and Dental Hygiene
Funds the planning, development, operation of, and participation in approved professional training programs in general, pediatric, or public health dentistry and dental hygiene.

Post-doctoral Training in General, Pediatric and Public Health Dentistry
Funds the planning, development, operation of, and participation in approved professional training programs in general, pediatric, or public health dentistry for dental residents, practicing dentists, or other approved primary care dental trainees.

Cleaning a young girl's teethFaculty Development in General, Pediatric, and Public Health Dentistry and Dental Hygiene
Funds the planning, operation of, and development in programs for the training of oral health care providers who plan to teach in general, pediatric, public health dentistry or dental hygiene.

Dental Faculty Loan Repayment
Funds the planning, development, operation of, and retention in dental faculty loan repayment programs for full-time faculty members engaged in general, pediatric, public health dentistry and dental hygiene.

State Oral Health Workforce
Funds State government agencies (or other governor-appointed organizations) to improve access to care in their designated Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas through low- or no-interest loans, loan forgiveness and repayment, and other dental education and service efforts.

Find Shortage Areas
Did You Know?
  • Over the past 25 years, the number of traditional dental Health Professional Shortage Areas has nearly tripled – from 800 in 1993 to more than 2,300 in 2010. In addition, more than 2,000 facilities, including HRSA-supported Health Centers and some Rural Health Clinics, have been added as shortage facilities since 2002.
  • More than 49 million people live in dental Health Professional Shortage Areas.
  • Dentists joining the National Health Service Corps have, on average, $142,000 in student loan debt – more than 10 percent more debt than the average for physicians.
  • Less than 8 percent of students enrolled in dental school are African-American, Latino or American Indian. Only 14 percent of the profession is racially or ethnically minority.