Oral Health


Heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis are only some of the chronic conditions that have been linked to oral health. We encourage all PAs to incorporate oral health screenings and preventive oral healthcare into routine medical care. As patients are generally more likely to visit a medical provider than a dentist, PAs can be critical in making early oral diagnoses that can have more serious implications if not promptly addressed and connecting patients to dentists. By integrating oral health into PA 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 $124 billion on dental services in 2016.


Approximately 68% of people aged 2 years and older had a dental visit in the past 12 months.


59% of adolescents have had tooth decay.

Know the Facts

  • Dental caries is the most common chronic disease of childhood.
  • Nearly 19% of adults age 65 and over have complete tooth loss.
  • 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.
  • Healthy People 2020 identifies that it's leading health indicator related to oral health is "getting worse" since measurement began in 2007.
  • 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.
  • Nearly 63 million Americans live in dental health profession shortage areas.
  • PAs provide care at both the front-end and back-end of the disease process for all ages, genders, and diseases.
  • PAs work as part of the interprofessional 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, which can include:
    • Screening for oral health
    • Conducting risk assessments
    • Applying fluoride varnish
    • Providing anticipatory guidance and behavior change counseling
    • Educating patients to promote patient activation and self-advocacy

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 Arcora Foundation.

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



  • Presentation: Changing the Systems that Influence Oral Health. August 2018. Ohio Rural Health Conference and Flex Annual Meeting. Mt. Sterling, Ohio.

  • Presentation: Did You Miss It? Oral Health as a Factor in Health & Disease. June 2018. International Association of Medical Science Educators Conference. Las Vegas, Nevada.

  • Presentation & Poster: Building Physician Assistant Oral Health Workforce Capacity: A Six-Year Retrospective. May 2018. American Academy of PAs Annual Conference. New Orleans, Louisiana.

  • Roundtable Leader: nccPA Health Foundation: A Partner in Building Physician Assistant Oral Health Workforce Capacity. April 2018. National Oral Health Conference. Louisville, Kentucky.
  • Article: Integrating Physician Assistants into the Oral Health Workforce Supports the Opportunity for Health. Reflections from Professionals on World Oral Health Day. March 20, 2018. Public Health Newswire. 

  • Presentation: Building PA Workforce Capacity for Oral Health through Grant Funded Projects. November 2017. American Public Health Association. Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Film Festival: Small Steps Can Make A Big Impact in Oral Health: Learn, Connect, Collaborate, and Educate. November 2017. American Public Health Association’s Global Health Film Festival. Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Participant: Oral Health in Primary Care Annual Symposium. October 2017. National Interprofessional Initiative in Oral Health. Chicago, Illinois.

  • Poster: Learn by Doing: Impact of Oral Health Outreach. October 2017. Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants Annual Conference. King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

  • Presentation: Oral Health: The PA Role in Caring for Smiles for Life. October 2017. Michigan Academy of Physician Assistants Annual Fall CME Conference. Grand Rapids, Michigan.

  • Poster: Promoting Physician Assistants as Oral Healthcare Team Members. August 2017. National Association of Community Health Centers. San Diego, California.

  • Poster: Building Physician Assistant Oral Health Workforce Capacity: A Five-Year Retrospective. June 2017. International Association of Medical Science Educators. Burlington, Vermont.

  • 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.




To view additional Foundation efforts to promote the PA profession and integration of oral health, click here.