The World Health Organization (WHO) African Region (AFR) has 47 countries. The aim of this research was to review the oral health workforce (OHWF) comprising dentists, dental assistants and therapists, and dental prosthetic technicians in the AFR. OHWF data from a survey of all 47 member states were triangulated with the National Health Workforce Accounts and population data. Descriptive analysis of workforce trends and densities per 10,000 population from 2000 to 2019 was performed, and perceived workforce challenges/possible solutions were suggested. Linear regression modelling used the Human Development Index (HDI), years of schooling, dental schools, and levels of urbanization as predictors of dentist density. Despite a growth of 63.6% since 2010, the current workforce density of dentists (per 10,000 population) in the AFR remains very low at 0.44, with marked intra-regional inequity (Seychelles, 4.297; South Sudan 0.003). The stock of dentists just exceeds that of dental assistants/therapists (1:0.91). Workforce density of dentists and the OHWF overall was strongly associated with the HDI and mean years of schooling. The dominant perceived challenge was identified as ‘mal-distribution of the workforce (urban/rural)’ and ‘oral health’ being ‘considered low priority’. Action to ‘strengthen oral health policy’ and provide ‘incentives to work in underserved areas’ were considered important solutions in the region. Whilst utilising workforce skill mix contributes to overall capacity, there is a stark deficit of human resources for oral health in the AFR. There is an urgent need to strengthen policy, health, and education systems to expand the OHWF using innovative workforce models to meet the needs of this region and achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Original languageEnglish
Article number2328
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


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