Oral Health


Respiratory disease, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis are only some of the chronic conditions that have been linked to oral health. In recognizing that oral health can impact the health of the body, we encourage PAs to incorporate preventive oral health care into routine medical care. As patients are generally more likely to visit a medical provider than a dentist, PAs can be critical in not only connecting patients to dentists but also making early oral diagnoses that can have more serious implications if not promptly addressed. By equipping PAs to integrate oral health into practice, PAs can positively impact America’s oral health crisis by increasing access to care, minimizing the burden of oral disease, and reducing associated disparities.

We advocate putting the mouth back in the body.

In 2000, the US Surgeon General called oral disease the “silent epidemic” in America and noted the “mouth is a mirror for the body,” but significant work remains to foster an engaged and equipped workforce to meet these needs.


Americans spent more than $111 billion on dental services in 2013.


Approximately 43% of people aged 2 years and older had a dental visit in the past 12 months.


Roughly 50% of adolescents suffer from tooth decay.

Know the Facts

  • Dental caries is the most common chronic disease of childhood, and 50% of adolescents suffer from tooth decay.
  • 25% of seniors have no natural teeth.
  • Oral cancer kills approximately 1 person every hour.
  • Oral and pharyngeal cancers are often diagnosed too late; only about half of patients diagnosed with oral cancer will be alive in five years.
  • In 2013, 43% of people aged 2 years and older had a dental visit in the past 12 months. This Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicator shows negative process since measurement began in 2007.
  • In 2013, the total cost of dental services reached $111 billion with significant spending on restorative care for oral disease that could have been prevented – or if caught earlier – treated with lower-cost, lower-risk interventions.
  • Employed adults lose 164 million hours of work each year due to their own oral health problems or dental visits–twice the amount of time required to assemble the three million new cars produced by the U.S. each year.
  • Only half of employers offering medical benefits provide or contribute to a dental insurance benefit. This coverage gap leaves approximately 108 million people in the U.S. (nearly 40% of the population) without dental insurance—more than two-and-a-half times the number of Americans who lack medical insurance.
  • More than 51 million Americans live in dental health profession shortage areas.
  • PAs provide primary care;
    • At both the front-end and back-end of the disease process for all ages, genders and diseases
  • PA practice is interprofessional;
    • PAs work as part of a team in collaboration with physicians and other providers.
  • PA practice is often focused on prevention;
    • Oral health is the “low hanging fruit” of prevention. Causes are known and interventions work.
  • Oral health fits within the scope of PA practice;
    • Screening, risk assessment, and fluoride varnish
    • Trusted agents of behavior change counseling
    • Patient activation and self-advocacy to reduce health disparities

Our work is part of the PA Leadership Initiative in Oral Health, a profession-wide movement striving to integrate oral health into PA education and practice. This work has been supported by the National Interprofessional Initiative in Oral Health (NIIOH) and its funders the DentaQuest Foundation and Washington Dental Service Foundation.

The nccPA Health Foundation is committed to promoting the role of PAs as oral health champions.



  • Presentation: Assessing How PAs ‘Put the Mouth Back in the Body’ from Education to Practice. May 2017. AAPA Conference; Las Vegas, Nevada.

  • Presentation: Putting the Mouth Back in the Body: A Workforce Model for Integrating Oral Health into Interprofessional Practice. May 2017. Perinatal/Infant Oral Health Inter-professional Summit. Wallingford, Connecticut.

  • Poster: Learn by Doing: Impact of Oral Health Outreach. April 2017. Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Medical Education Retreat; Cleveland, Ohio.

  • Poster: Building Physician Assistant Oral Health Workforce Capacity: A Five-Year Retrospective. April 2017. National Oral Health Conference. Albuquerque, New Mexico.

  • Presentation: Expanding Interprofessional Workforce Capacity to Promote Health: Putting the Mouth Back in the Body. March 2017. American Interprofessional Health Collaborative. Webinar series.

  • Film Festival: Joining the Fight for Oral Health: Promoting Health Equity. November 2016. American Public Health Association’s Global Health Film Festival. Denver, Colorado.

  • Poster: Building PA Oral Health Workforce Capacity: A Five-Year Retrospective. November 2016. American Public Health Association. Denver, Colorado.

  • Poster: Learn by Doing: Impact of Oral Health Outreach. October 2016. PAEA Education Forum. Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  • Poster: Presentation: Say Ahh… Ah-ha! Oral Health Moments for PA Educators. September 2016. NCCPA Program Educators Workshop. Johns Creek, Georgia.

  • Poster: Poster: Learn by Doing: Impact of Oral Health Outreach. September 2016. Ohio Association of Physician Assistants Meeting.

  • Participant: PA Oral Health Leadership Capstone Summit. August 2016. PA Leadership Initiative in Oral Health. San Jose, California.

  • Presentation: PAs: Expanding Workforce Capacity to Promote Health. June 2016. Arkansas Oral Health Coalition’s Ninth Governor’s Oral Health Summit. Little Rock, Arkansas.