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 - 783 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 identified five key oral health domains and associated core clinical competencies.


Purpose: Identifies factors that impact oral health and overall health.


  • Conduct patient-specific, oral health risk assessments on all patients.
  • Identify patient-specific conditions and medical treatments that impact oral health.
  • Identify patient-specific, oral conditions and diseases that impact overall health.
  • Integrate epidemiology of caries, periodontal diseases, oral cancer, and common oral trauma into the risk assessment.

Purpose: Integrates subjective and objective findings based on completion of a focused oral health history, risk assessment, and performance of clinical oral screening.


  • Perform oral health evaluations linking patient history, risk assessment, and clinical presentation.
  • Identify and prioritize strategies to prevent or lessen risk for oral and systemic diseases.
  • Layer interventions in accordance with evaluation findings.

Purpose: Recognizes options and strategies to address oral health needs identified by a comprehensive risk assessment and health evaluation.


  • Implement appropriate patient-centered preventive oral health interventions and strategies.
  • Introduce strategies to reduce identified risk factors.

Purpose: Targets individuals and groups regarding the relationship between oral and systemic health, risk factors for oral health disorders, effect of nutrition on oral health, and preventive measures appropriate to reduce risk for individuals and populations.


  • Provide targeted patient education about importance of oral health and how to maintain good oral health, which considers oral health literacy, nutrition, and patients' perceived oral health barriers.

Purpose: Shares responsibility and collaboration among health care professionals in the care of patients and populations with, or at risk of, oral disorders to ensure optimal health results.


  • Exchange meaningful information among health care providers to identify and implement appropriate, high quality care for patients, based on comprehensive evaluations and options available within the local health delivery and referral system.
  • Apply interprofessional practice principles that lead to safe, timely, efficient, and effective planning and delivery of patient and population-centered oral health care.
  • Facilitate patient navigation in the oral health care delivery system through collaboration and communication with oral health care providers, and provide appropriate referrals.

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. 
  • 2015: health centers provided more than 13 million dental visits—an increase of 43% 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 2015, ORHP awarded 60 new Outreach Grants, including 10 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  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.
    • Six grantees are engaged in oral health projects.

Date Last Reviewed: May 2017

Contact Us

Renée Joskow, DDS, MPH, FAGD, FACD
Email Renée Joskow

Coordinating Committee

U.S. Public Health Service's Oral Health Coordinating Committee -- members coordinate on policy, programs, and research