HRSA and oral health: Agency provides resources for dental hygienists

April 15, 2016
The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) recently published a brief informational report on their dental activities. Christine Nathe, RDH, discusses the value of the publication for dental hygienists.

By Christine Nathe

The US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, recently published a brief informational report on their dental activities titled "Oral Health: Across the Agency." Before discussing this publication, here's a reminder from previous columns: the mission of HRSA is to improve the health of the nation's underserved communities and vulnerable populations by assuring access to comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary health-care services.

The document details the recently developed essential set of oral health core clinical competencies for nondental providers. These competencies are focused on efforts to improve access for early detection and preventive oral health interventions by people outside of dentistry. HRSA led the initiative Integrating Oral Health and Primary Care Practice (IOHPCP) to expand the oral health clinical competency of primary care clinicians. This included the following:

  • Develop oral health domains and associated core clinical competencies
  • Employ a systems approach to identify and prioritize the elements that impact the adoption of oral health competencies by primary care clinicians
  • Characterize the foundation for successful implementation strategies that translate into primary care practice

HRSA has also focused on efforts to improve oral health for pregnant women and children by creating the initiative called Perinatal and Infant Oral Health Quality Improvement. They joined with community programs to integrate into statewide health-care systems and support efforts of the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center. HRSA has also provided scholarships for disadvantaged students to promote diversity among dental hygiene students.

Funding is provided for dental services via the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, and through Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant to improve the oral health of mothers, infants, and children, including children with special health-care needs and their families.

HRSA has published a wide array of information, which is included in the box in this article. In particular, these publications promote oral health and literacy while presenting the role of dental hygienists in health care.

HRSA also operates health centers that serve one in 14 people living in the United States. Nearly half of these health centers are in rural areas. Approximately 89% of HRSA's health centers provide dental services. More than 3,700 dentists and nearly 1,700 dental hygienists work in these health centers.

This is a great opportunity for dental hygiene employment and has the added plus that dental hygienists are able to treat those most in need. Also, these resources can be used by all to help build initiatives and momentum for dental health endeavors. RDH

HRSA-supported publications and additional resources

  • Integration of Oral Health and Primary Care Practice Report
  • Considerations for Oral Health Integration in Primary Care Practice for Children
  • Oral Health Care During Pregnancy: A National Consensus Statement
  • Bright Futures in Practice: Oral Health-Pocket Guide (2nd ed.)
  • National Center for Health Workforce Analysis Dentists and Dental Hygienist Workforce Report
  • The Role of Dental Hygienists in Providing Access to Oral Health Care
  • Rural Oral Health Toolkit
  • National Conference of State Legislatures Oral Health Primer
  • National Academy for State Health Policy Oral Health Primer
  • Bright Futures-Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents
  • Healthy People 2020 Oral Health Leading Health Indicator
  • National Maternal & Child Oral Health Resource Center
  • National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education
  • Oral Health and HIV-The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program


1. HRSA Oral Health: Across the Agency. Retrieved from on December 8, 2015.

CHRISTINE NATHE, RDH, MS, is director at the University of New Mexico, Division of Dental Hygiene, in Albuquerque, N.M. She is also the author of "Dental Public Health Research" (, which is in its third edition with Pearson. She can be reached at [email protected] or (505) 272-8147.

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