Delta Dental of N.J. supports launch of national campaign to drive greater diversity in oral health workforce

Communities of color have long been underrepresented in numerous medical fields, including those involving oral health.

It’s an issue that’s bad for equity — and for oral health.

While racial and ethnic diversity among health professionals is linked to improved outcomes and greater health equity, the current oral health workforce does not reflect the changing demographics of the U.S. population.

Delta Dental is working to correct that.

This week, the company announced the launch of a new initiative, Driving Greater Diversity in the Oral Health Workforce, sponsored by the Delta Dental Institute.

The program will:

  • Establish the Delta Dental Oral Health Diversity Fund: In its first year, the Delta Dental Oral Health Diversity Fund will make targeted investments up to $1 million in programs that inspire school-age children from historically underrepresented groups to pursue a career in oral health;
  • Support oral health higher education: Nationally, Delta Dental will continue its investment in the future of the oral health workforce through funding scholarships and infrastructure at minority-serving institutions;
  • Propel new research: The Delta Dental Institute sponsored the Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s new research on the oral health workforce;
  • Engage with communities: Nearly a quarter of Delta Dental’s community investments across the country are dedicated to oral health education and workforce development.

Delta Dental of New Jersey CEO Dennis Wilson said the company has long been behind these types of efforts:

Want to apply?

For those interested in applying to the Delta Dental Oral Health Diversity Fund and learning more about this campaign, please click here. Eligible applicants must be based in the U.S., and may include 501(c)(3) organizations, private businesses or limited or general partnerships.

“Supporting diversity in the oral health field is a priority for us both locally and nationally,” he said. “Since 1986, the Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation has worked to promote and assist educational projects devoted to the enhancement of dental health, especially in underserved communities.”

These efforts include:

  • Bloomfield Health Careers Foundation’s Rutgers School of Dental Medicine Internship/Shadowing Program, which exposes 45 high school students ages 16-18 at Newark Tech and Central High School in Newark, Nutley High School, Bloomfield High School and Montclair High School to dental careers, including dental assisting;
  • Newark Central High School’s Dental Studies Academy, which provides students the opportunity to gain entry-level certification in the dental field, including NELDA (National Entry Level Dental Assistant), AMP (Anatomy, Morphology and Physiology), ICE (Infection Control Exam), and RHS (Radiation Health Safety).

Dr. George McLaughlin, chair of the Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation and Delta Dental of New Jersey board member, said the groups know the impact they can have.

“It’s important to recruit as many historically underrepresented people into the dental workforce as possible,” he said. “I’ve been advocating for greater diversity in the dental field for more than 30 years, and it makes a difference, because patients tend to look for providers who look like them.

“As a person of color, I understand firsthand the barriers people in my community face regarding accessing dental care. I am hopeful that this campaign will help inspire future generations and create a more diverse workforce in our field.”