Past Projects

Year 3 Projects

Developing a Graphic Visualization to Help Policy Makers Understand the Wide Variation in State-level Dental Hygiene Scope of Practice

There is substantial variation in dental hygiene (DH) scope of practice across states, but no user-friendly tools to help policymakers understand these differences. OHWRC produced an infographic on state-specific DH scope of practice. Researchers worked with key stakeholders in dental hygiene (representing education, practice, and research) to identify the variables to include in the graphic to accurately depict key DH responsibilities associated with scope of practice and to display state-to-state variation.

This research resulted in an Infographic.

Year 2 Projects

Determinants of Oral Health Assessment and Screening in Physician Assistant Clinical Practice 

In 2013, a survey of directors of physician assistant education programs conducted by the Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS) found that more than 70% of respondent programs had integrated oral health topics into core content of their physician assistant (PA) curriculum. A 2014 HRSA-sponsored report described core oral health clinical competencies for frontline primary care clinicians, including PAs, and outlined strategies for implementing oral health training in primary care practice and safety net settings. However, whether training in oral health in PA education programs translates to actual screening and assessment of patients’ oral health status in clinical practice remains unclear. OHWRC in cooperation with the American Association of Physician Assistants (AAPA) fielded a survey to a sample of PAs across the US in 2016 to ascertain PA practice characteristics, to describe oral health screening activities for patients, to understand the extent and source of PA education in oral health, and to determine facilitators and barriers to the integration of oral health service in practice.

This research resulted in a ReportPolicy Brief, and Abstract.

Understanding the Impact of Dental Residents and Student Externs on Oral Health Service Delivery Capacity in the Safety Net

Demand for dental residency and dental student externship opportunities has grown in recent years, driven by the economy for dental employment and the desire of students for increased market competitiveness. In addition to specialty residencies, some states now also require that general dentists complete a year of advanced education in general dentistry before licensure. The Teaching Health Center program, a feature of the ACA, has contributed to increased capacity in dental residency programs, has impacted new dentist preparedness for practice, has increased opportunities for recruitment and retention of dentists in community clinics, and has increased access to oral health services for safety net populations. OHWRC examined trends in demand for advanced training by students and how this aligns with current policy supporting this training and practice. Researchers also explored the  impact of residencies in ambulatory care settings, particularly for FQHCs, on service capacity and access for patients.

This research resulted in a ReportPolicy Brief, and Abstract.

Case Studies of 6 Innovative Oral Health Service Delivery Programs Using Teledentistry

Teledentistry is an emerging strategy with the potential to improve oral health outcomes for underserved populations, particularly those living in rural communities. OHWRC conducted 6 case studies of innovative oral health programs in different states that employed teledentistry. The case studies entailed site visits and in-depth interviews with both administrative, HIT, and clinical staff at selected sites where teledentistry services are provided. In addition, OHWRC reviewed current state statutes and regulations in dentistry with a specific focus on regulation of teledentistry and state-level reimbursement policies for oral health providers accepting Medicaid and/or commercial insurance for services provided using teledentistry. The findings provide a better understanding of teledentistry program applications, workforce strategies, impacts on access to care, the organizational structure in which services are provided, and the barriers and facilitators of teledentistry services.

This research resulted in a ReportPolicy Brief, and Abstract.

Development of a New Scope of Practice Index for Dental Hygienists 

As part of its Year 1 research projects, staff at OHWRC conducted an extensive review of state legislation and regulation governing registered dental hygienists  in order to describe the current regulatory environment and quantify it using the 2001 dental hygiene professional practice index (DHPPI). However, much has changed for the dental hygiene profession in the decade since the DHPPI was constructed and the utility of the 2001 DHPPI for analysis had diminished. In 2016, OHWRC updated and modified the DHPPI scale by adding new variables to better quantify current practice for dental hygienists and allow comparisons of change over time for dental hygiene practice in each state.

This research resulted in a ReportPolicy Brief, and Abstract.

Underrepresented Minority Dentists’ Contribution to Health Equity in the US

Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native dentists are substantially underrepresented relative to their proportion in the general population. HRSA has a strong commitment to improve health workforce diversity. OHWRC examined nationally representative sample survey data of underrepresented minority (URM) dentists in the US to determine the supply, distribution, and practice patterns of URM dentists, current contributions to dental care for minority populations, and future supply and impact on the access to care for minority populations based on cohort practice patterns and projected inflows through US schools as well as immigration flows over time.

This research resulted in an Article published in Health Affairs, a Policy Brief, and Abstract.


Year 1 Projects

A Comparison of Medicaid Dental Claims Data in 2 States With Different Adult Dental Benefits, 2012-2013

OHWRC conducted a comparative analysis of Medicaid dental claims over a 2-year period in New York and Oklahoma. Oklahoma Medicaid provides only a limited dental benefit for adult enrollees 21 years of age and older, including emergency exams and extractions of diseased teeth. In contrast, adult Medicaid beneficiaries
in New York State have a comprehensive dental benefit that includes preventive services, restorative services, periodontal services, dentures, and oral surgery services. The objective of this research was to understand the impact of Medicaid dental benefits and availability of providers on utilization of dental services.

This research resulted in:

Updating the Professional Practice Index for Dental Hygienists in the 50 US States and the District of Columbia

OHWRC updated the scope of practice index for registered dental hygienists (RDHs) that was originally created in 2001. Researchers provided an objective quantification of current practices for RDHs and a comparison of changes over time for dental hygiene practice in each state of the US.

This research resulted in a ReportPolicy Brief, Abstract, and an Article published in Health Affairs.

Case Studies of Oral Health Service Delivery Models Used in Long-Term Care Settings

OHWRC examined the current and changing practice models utilized in providing dental services in long-term care, residential care, and for homebound individuals through 4 state case studies. A secondary objective was to determine policy variables that may impact the availability of these services within a state or community and describe these impacts.

This research resulted in a ReportPolicy Brief, and Abstract.

A Study of the Dental Assistant Workforce in the United States

OHWRC conducted a comprehensive examination of the dental assisting profession to understand the contributions of dental assistants to oral health services. Researchers examined demographic and educational characteristics of dental assistants and identified gaps in data about this workforce that should be addressed.

This research resulted in a ReportPolicy BriefResearch Brief, and Abstract.

Case Studies of 8 Federally Qualified Health Centers to Describe Oral Health Services Delivery and Oral Health Workforce Innovation

OHWRC developed 8 case studies of federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) that use various oral health and/or medical workforce in their care delivery models to provide oral health services to high-need populations. One goal of the study was to better understand the use of new or alternative workforce models in oral health services delivery and to understand their contributions to patient care.

This research resulted in a ReportPolicy Brief, and Abstract.