Many rural areas face challenges recruiting and retaining dentists to practice in their communities. In rural areas, there are fewer available local training programs for dental hygienists and assistants, lower private and public health insurance reimbursement rates for services, and fewer employment opportunities for the dentist’s spouse. In order to increase access to care, rural communities are using workforce models to recruit and retain dentists.
Rural workforce approaches include:
- Encouraging students from rural communities to choose dental careers by developing programs that introduce students to the dental profession
- Offering incentive programs to dental professionals who serve rural populations, such as tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness programs
- Introducing pediatric residents to area dentists interested in recruiting graduates for their practices
- Matching dental students with dentist mentors who practice in smaller communities to expose them to opportunities in rural areas
The Health Resources and Services Administration is funding a five-year program called the Minnesota Collaborative Rural Oral Health Project, led by the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. This program strives to reduce oral health disparities in underserved rural Minnesota communities through interprofessional education and the use of mid-level providers as part of the care team.
Resources to Learn More
Access to Oral Health
Care Services: Workforce Development
This report describes a public health strategy, assesses the strength of evidence on the effectiveness of the strategy, and uses practice examples to illustrate successful implementation.
Organization(s): Association of State & Territorial Dental Directors
Healthcare Reform and
This website summarizes recent oral health care coverage changes.
Organization(s): Oral Health Watch
and Community Best Practice Approach Examples: Workforce Development
Collection of Program Examples
The Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors has compiled a list of state and community best practice approach examples on workforce development.
Organization(s): Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors
Oral Health Workforce in the Coming Decade: Workshop Summary
Chapter 4 discusses demographics and trends in the oral health workforce including the traditional workforce of dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants as well as the role of physicians and nurses in the provision of oral healthcare.
Organization(s): National Research Council