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Oral Health

Oral health is an integral part of overall health. To increase access to quality oral health care, HRSA provides support for oral health programs, activities, and initiatives.

To increase early detection and prevention, and improve overall health, HRSA developed the Integrating Oral Health and Primary Care Practice (IOHPCP) (PDF – 784 KB) initiative. This initiative seeks to improve the knowledge and skills of primary care clinicians and promote interprofessional collaboration across health professions.

Additionally, in response to recommendations from the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) HRSA Exit Disclaimer, HRSA identified five key oral health domains and associated core clinical competencies.

Risk Assessment

Oral Health Evaluation

Preventive Intervention

Communication and Education

Interprofessional Collaborative Practice

How Do These Work in Practice?

In 2013, HRSA awarded the National Network for Oral Health Access (NNOHA) funding to pilot the oral health competencies in three health centers across the country.

A User's Guide for Implementation of Interprofessional Oral Health Core Clinical Competencies: Results of a Pilot Project (PDF – 4.7 KB) describes the challenges associated with developing a new program, strategies to address these challenges, and recommendations for implementing the program in primary care settings.

Which Programs Address Oral Health?

HRSA bureaus and offices support a variety of programs, activities, and initiatives that improve oral health.

Office of Planning, Analysis, and Evaluation (OPAE)

OPAE provides HRSA-wide oral health leadership for cross-agency initiatives and departmental priorities. They also administer the National Organizations for State and Local Officials (NOSLO) and National Forum for State and Territorial Chief Executives (National Forum) cooperative agreement programs which supports activities that address oral health.

Agency-wide efforts


Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB)

Ryan White HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB)

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides related care and services to more than 500,000 people every year, including dental programs to address the unique health issues faced by people living with HIV/AIDS.

Bureau Health Workforce (BHW)

Oral Health Workforce Development Programs help build and train the oral health workforce, improving access to quality oral healthcare for those most in need.

The National Health Service Corps offers loan repayments and scholarships for health care professionals, including dentists and dental hygienists that practice in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).

The National Center for Health Workforce Analysis supports Health Workforce Research Centers at various universities through cooperative agreements including the Oral Health Workforce Research Center at the State University of New York at Albany.

Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC)

HRSA's Health Center program increases access to quality primary health care services, including oral health, for medically underserved populations. Most grantees also provide dental services either on-site or by paid referral.

  • 2016: 420 health center grantees received additional funding to increase oral health services as part of the HRSA Oral Health Expansion Supplement effort. 
  • 2016: Health centers provided more than 14 million dental visits — an increase of 56% since 2010.

Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP)

  • Rural Health Care Services Outreach program supports projects that demonstrate creative and effective models of outreach and service delivery in rural communities.
    • In 2017, ORHP awarded 60 new Outreach Grants, including 11 new grantees with a focus in oral health care delivery. These programs seek to improve access to affordable oral health care services in rural areas.
  • Rural Oral Health Toolkit HRSA Exit Disclaimer helps programs to identify and implement oral health services and provides examples of resources and best practices.
  • Rural Health Network Development supports rural integrated health care network, integrating systems of care administratively, clinically and financially.
    • Two grantees are engaged in oral health projects.
Date Last Reviewed:  February 2018