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The Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and the School of Medicine are now offering a new, combined degree program that will give doctoral students a degree in both dental medicine and public policy. This will enable students to graduate with a Doctor of Dental Medicine and a Master of Public Health degree.
To date, there has been a great deal of interest in the new program, according to professors teaching in the program. There is a major need for public health dentists in the US and around the world.
Dental public health is now one of the nine specialty areas that are recognized by the American Dental Association. Dental public health is the science of controlling serious dental diseases and promoting good dental health in at need communities. This type of dental practice serves the entire community as the patient, not just the individual. This type of dentistry is most concerned with the education of the public in the area of dental care. Another focus is the prevention and control of serious dental diseases on the level of the whole community.
Dental public health has been a recognized dental specialty by the ADA since 1950. It is unique because it is not mainly a clinical specialty. This specialty is one where the dentists are focusing on the oral health problems for the entire population and not just on the person.
The new dental program focuses on comprehensive training to help the needy with dental health problems on a wide community level. This is done through developing services and policy that are aimed at improving oral health. The goal of the DMD/MPH program is to recruit and train a talented and skilled dental health workforce that can help to cut down on the disparities in oral health in at risk populations. Also, these professionals will try to improve the understanding of the need for dental health in poorer communities around the country.
The new dental/MPH program combines the strengths of the two campuses, both of which are located in the Boston area. Students are able to easily commute to each campus within about 15 minutes.
This new program will give all students who have a passion for both public health and dentistry the chance to earn both degrees in less time than it would take to enroll in separate programs. The program will allow dental students to start MPH coursework during their first or third year of dental school. The degree can be completed with an additional one year of study.
Faculty at Tufts University say that there was a high student demand for this program, which is now the 14th combined degree program that is being offered at the school.
This decision to start the dental/MPH program also was due to there being greater awareness about inequalities in oral health care access all over the globe. There also is a shortage of dentists who have training in public health.
The great need to have a program that merges dental and public health programs can be seen in a 2003 report by the US Surgeon General that was called ‘National Call to Action to Promote Oral Health.’ This report showed that poor dental health is very common in poor communities.
The report shows that there is a strong connection between oral health and the total health of people. There needs to be greater access to affordable oral health care to the most underserved populations.
Hopefully, as the Tufts University dental and MPH program expands, there will be an increase in the number of dentists who are able to help needy populations.