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Dental Public Health

Reviewed by: Emanuel Finn, DDS, MS

Dental public health is one of the nine specialties of dentistry recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA). Dental public health is more involved with assessing the dental health needs of populations or groups of people rather than individuals. They do this by monitoring for community health problems, diagnosing and investigating health problems & health hazards within the community, enforcing laws & regulations that protect the community’s health and safety, and informing & educating people within the community about health issues.

After those steps are taken, they evaluate the effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of their work. Plus, they continuously gather, research, and analyze new ways to find solutions for dental health problems. The overall goal is to encourage and promote good oral hygiene and dental health care throughout populated communities worldwide, and to promote the point that oral health is an integral part of over health and well being.

Dental Public Health Education

Dentists who wish to focus more on groups of people instead of individuals must still graduate from an accredited dental school, complete at least two years of advanced training, and two years of full-time experience through a residency program that focuses on dental public health practice. The residency program must be CODA-accredited (Commission on Dental Accreditation). The average debt associated with dental public health professionals is $118,748 since there are only a few different schools that offer a dental public health program (including faculty and courses). Plus, clinical residencies are even harder to get into than medical residencies since dental public health is separated from clinical dentistry throughout schooling.

Why Do We Need Dental Public Health Professionals?

The answer is quite simple. Not only do these professionals explain and promote good oral hygiene, they also research new diseases, conditions, and problems. They are responsible for alerting the authorities and public and spreading the word about dental issues that affect the population. For example, a controversial topic right now surrounds commercial mouthwash after some studies have linked it to a possible increased risk of oral cancer. Fluoridation in drinking water is also a hot topic, since fluoride is known to help prevent tooth decay, yet too much of it is known to be harmful. Dental public health officials monitor topics such as these and others to conduct research for reliable information, enforce the laws that exist, and advocate for new laws when needed to protect the community.

Page updated September 2012



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