The University at Albany School of Public Health, Albany, NY, will launch an Oral Health Workforce Research Center, supported by a $1.1 million cooperative agreement grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). ??The Center, an outgrowth of University at Albany’s Center for Health Workforce Studies, is one of five health workforce research centers in the country, but the only one focused solely on the oral health workforce.

In the past decade, access to oral health care has become a growing national concern. Despite efforts to improve oral health, disparities persist, particularly among underserved, vulnerable populations. One factor believed to influence access to oral health services is the availability of a workforce equipped to meet the need for preventive and basic restorative oral health services.

“Oral health has historically been viewed as being separate from other forms of physical health. However, research shows that poor dental health can be linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, pancreatic cancer, pneumonia, and pregnancy complications,” said School of Public Health Dean Philip C. Nasca. “The Oral Health Workforce Research Center will provide much-needed data about gaps in the public health workforce, identify barriers to good oral health, and support the development of policy and practice models.”

In its first year of operation, the Oral Health Workforce Research Center intends to:

  • Update the Professional Practice Index for dental hygienists in the 50 states and DC,
  • Compare Medicaid dental claims data in two states with different adult dental benefits,
  • Study the US dental assistant workforce,
  • Develop case studies for six federally qualified health centers to describe oral health services delivery and oral health workforce innovation, and
  • Develop case studies of oral health service delivery models used in long-term care settings.