Understanding oral health disparities in children as a global public health issue: how dental health professionals can make a difference


Oral disease in children is an urgent public health issue worldwide. Early childhood caries (ECC) affects 600 million children globally, yet it is entirely preventable. Dental health professionals around the world need to act to improve use of measures to prevent ECC and of quality dental health care to improve oral health worldwide. The University of California/Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Children’s Oral Health hosted an interprofessional innovation forum to discuss and recommend options. We present the policy, educational, and public health-related suggestions for improving outcomes and professional collaboration and five key areas for action: (1) increase advocacy efforts, (2) support interprofessional education and practice, (3) promote oral health education and increase health literacy, (4) increase collaboration with community and school-based oral health care workers, and (5) use of technology to increase access to dental care and health information.

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The manuscript expands and redirects guidance from the same forum to a global public health audience after publication of a more clinically oriented editorial for US dentists published in November 2019 by the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA).

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Correspondence to Janni Kinsler.

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Ramos-Gomez, F., Kinsler, J. & Askaryar, H. Understanding oral health disparities in children as a global public health issue: how dental health professionals can make a difference. J Public Health Pol 41, 114–124 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41271-020-00222-5

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  • Early childhood caries
  • Oral health disparities
  • Advocacy
  • Interprofessional education
  • Oral health education