Report From The Field

The Journal of Primary Prevention

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 279-291

First online:

Dentists as Oral Physicians: The Overlooked Primary Health Care Resource

  • Donald B. GiddonAffiliated withDepartment of Developmental Biology, Harvard School of Dental Medicine Email author 
  • , Brian SwannAffiliated withCambridge Health AllianceHarvard School of Dental Medicine
  • , R. Bruce DonoffAffiliated withHarvard School of Dental Medicine
  • , Ruth Hertzman-MillerAffiliated withJoslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The United States is currently experiencing a primary care shortage. One solution to improving health care is to increase the utilization of existing health care providers, particularly dentists, an opportunity that has been largely ignored. By employing mid-level providers for less complex procedures to deliver more accessible dental care at lower cost, dentists can redistribute tasks to their office workforce. They can then serve as oral physicians who can provide limited preventive primary care, including screening for chronic diseases, while continuing to oversee all dental care, whether provided by dentists or non-dentists. Thus, they could improve the health of the US population as well as increase access to dental care at lower cost, while partially alleviating the primary care shortage by filling a need for the screening aspects of primary care.


Health care delivery Primary care Oral physician Dentistry