Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General, released in May 2000, highlighted growing oral health disparities, especially in vulnerable populations (e.g., low-income, medically disabled, and geographically isolated individuals).
The Surgeon General’s Report cited several contributing factors to this oral health disparity:
- Limited national dental care safety net. Public and voluntary sector dental clinics for low-income patients treat only perhaps seven million people per year of the tens of millions who lack adequate access to other care.
- Lack of dental workforce diversity. The American Dental Education Association reported that in 2005, only 6 percent of dental students were African-American and only 6 percent were Hispanic. Further, only 93 American Indians were enrolled in dental school in 2004-2005. Dental school post-doctoral training programs and faculties suffer a similar lack of diversity.
- Rising cost of dental education. High tuition also contributes to the decline in students from lower income families.
Dental schools are a key resource for reducing oral health disparities in the United States.