A functional natural dentition for all – and for life? The oral healthcare system needs revision

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Abstract

The cost of dental care adds to the costs of the already overburdened health sector. Do we – as patients and as society –receive oral health care that is both aligned with the actual disease experience and also, critically based on up-to-date scientific knowledge about the major oral diseases? In many places, the practice of dentistry reflects a response to disease patterns that once existed and is based on diagnostic and therapeutic approaches that are no longer valid. Instead, a new cadre of dental professionals is needed, one that is capable of meeting the actual health needs of our populations. This cadre should ensure that patients maintain a functioning dentition from cradle to grave based on cost-effective disease control principles. There is an urgent need to: (i) reconsider the roles of the different oral health cadres involved in the provision of oral health care; (ii) integrate oral health into general healthcare services; and (iii) restructure the training of oral health personnel. We advocate a radical reform of the oral healthcare system involving the training of two new types of professionals integrated with the general healthcare system: The oral healthcare provider – a highly skilled professional specialised in the diagnosis and control of oral diseases and with a profound understanding of oral health as part of general health – and the oral clinical specialist – whose role is the provision of advanced oral rehabilitation, able also to treat people with complex chronic diseases and multiple medications.

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