Integration of oral health into primary health care: the role of dental hygienists and the WHO stewardship

Int J Dent Hyg. 2006 Feb;4(1):47-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-5037.2006.00159.x.


Interest in addressing the unmet oral health needs of the citizens of the world has manifested itself, lately, in noteworthy expressions of commitment. Oral health is integrated with general health and support for community programmes offering 'essential oral health' within primary health care (PHC) is increasing. The WHO Global Goals for Oral Health 2020 has assumed a more directed public health orientation, and the Global Oral Health Programme has its focus on modifiable oral risk behaviours. Last, but not the least, opportunities are being created, under the 'stewardship' of the World Health Organization (WHO), for the expansion of oral disease prevention and health promotion knowledge and practices in communities. A review of the literature on community-oriented oral health primary care reveals one dominant and disease-oriented practice model with dental practitioners being the principal and exclusive actors. One alternative to this biomedical model of care that may be better suited to translate health promotion principles into action at community levels is the practice that involves hygienists serving as primary oral health care providers. The WHO 'stewardship' should include the support of dental hygiene practice within PHC, many legislative restrictions and regulatory barriers would be relaxed, thus enabling dental hygienists to respond to the WHO's call for community-based demonstration projects. With their focus on preventive oral care, hygienists are 'best poised' to help accelerate the integration of oral health with primary care, particularly in the light of the compelling evidence confirming the cost-effectiveness of the care delivered by intermediate providers.

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Services
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated*
  • Dental Care*
  • Dental Hygienists*
  • Global Health
  • Health Education, Dental
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Mouth Diseases / prevention & control
  • Oral Health
  • Oral Hygiene
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Public Health
  • Tooth Diseases / prevention & control
  • World Health Organization*