Planning for the future dental workforce: Time for innovation

23 Dec 2020

REPORT | An international expert panel on improving workforce planning for dentists and other oral health workers, led by Professor Stephen Birch, has called on governments to improve their planning.

Professor Stephen Birch

Stephen Birch led an international expert panel this month on improving workforce planning for dentists and other oral health workers. With members from 8 countries, the panel identified the failure of current planning practices to link the requirements for dentists to the needs of the populations, to evidence-based practice for meeting needs and to best practice models for delivering care.  These major limitations result in prevailing levels of unmet need being missed and inefficient levels of service being reinforced in planning the workforce.

The panel called on governments to match innovations in dental care practice with innovations in planning models in order to realise the gains from improvements in oral health associated with effective public health measures such as fluoride-based toothpastes, improved dental hygiene and water fluoridation and ensure resources.

A dental assistant with a patient.
Dental assistant with patient. Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Planning models that incorporate oral health needs of the population provide flexible approaches to workforce policy that respond to changes in needs and offer the opportunity to address unmet needs from existing resources.

The report of the panel was published as an article in the international journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology on 15 December 2020.