Role of Dentistry in Global Health: Challenges and Research Priorities

F. N. Hugo, N. J. Kassebaum, W. Marcenes, E. Bernabé*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Despite some improvements in the oral health of populations globally, major problems remain all over the planet, most notably among underprivileged communities of low- and middle-income countries but also in high-income countries. Furthermore, essential oral health care has been a privilege, instead of a right, for most individuals. The release of the Lancet issue on oral health in July 2019 built up some momentum and put oral conditions and dental services in the limelight. Yet, much work is still needed to bridge the gap between dental research and global health and get oral health recognized as a population health priority worldwide. Using the framework proposed by Shiffman, we argue that a global health network for oral health must be harnessed to influence global health policy and drive health system reform. We have identified challenges around 4 key areas (problem definition, positioning, coalition building, and governance) from our experience working in the global health arena and with collaborators in multidisciplinary teams. These challenges are outlined here to validate them externally but also to call the attention of interested players inside and outside dentistry. How well our profession addresses these challenges will shape our performance during the Sustainable Development Goals era and beyond. This analysis is followed by a discussion of fundamental gaps in knowledge, particularly in 3 areas of oral health action: 1) epidemiology and health information systems; 2) collection, harmonization, and rigorous assessment of evidence for prevention, equity, and treatment; and 3) optimal strategies for delivering essential quality care to all who need it without financial hardship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-685
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Dental Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • dental care
  • global burden of disease
  • healthcare disparities
  • public health dentistry
  • social determinants of health
  • universal health care


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