Article Summary on Michael Alfano’s Article on Dental Hygienists

Article Summary

Michael Alfano’s article seeks to explore the possible effects of enhanced inter-professional and intra-professional collaboration among dental hygienists, dental therapists and nurse practitioners, in an attempt to seek better general health and oral care for all Americans.  Alfano (2012) notes that such an inter and intra disciplinary collaboration has been necessitated by the need for enhanced differentiated care that stresses on evidence-based practice, an inter-disciplinary team, and informatics and quality improvement approaches. Dental education leaders are also of the opinion that inter-professional education would undoubtedly lead to have a positive effect on the existing health care delivery systems, especially in terms of recruiting and retaining members of the dental faculty. In this way, embracing inter-professionalism in the design and delivery of health care education would result in improved service delivery to members of the public.

At the same time, inter-professional education would result in cost-effective healthcare delivery through collaboration with professionals from various health care disciplines (Alfano, 2012).  For example, dental schools in Columbia and Harvard are known for combining their medical and dental students in the teaching of basic sciences. Nonetheless, such innovation has on certain occasions met with resistance from certain professions, not to mention the effect of the synergies emanating from this combination.

From an operation point of view, such combination has resulted in increased cost efficiencies. This is good news considering that we are in an era where the cost of higher education is of greater concern to the public (Alfano, 2012). Importantly, the collaboration has led to improved opportunities in research, such as a significant rise in research funding. In addition, students from the various professions involved in such a novel education program stand to gain valuable experiences (Alfano, 2012). Indeed, there are many dimensions to the question of why we would need inter-health profession connections. To begin with, such connections aids in imparting more skills to the health care workforce in line with the changing face of a health care delivery system that is increasingly focused on evidence-based care.  Secondly, such a connectedness of the health care professionals is bound to build enhanced economic efficiencies in the form of improved recruitment, deployment, and retention of the faculty in the various professions involved (Alfano, 2012).

Alfano (2012) further argues that dental education is in a good position to accommodate the anticipated process of reinventing the curriculum.  However, in order to attain a suitable level of inter-professional education, Alfano (2012) suggests the need to leverage the obvious overlap in the core competencies of dental and medical education.  This can be achieved through the creative and active collaboration of different schools of health education and health professions to embrace inter-professional experiences. Examples include the use of community clinics being operated by the dental schools.

The author has further proposed several novel integration models for health care delivery in the dental profession. One of the suggestions proposed is to involve dental therapists in the delivery of dental care. However, this health care delivery model has been the subject of a heated debate between the American Dental Association and the state legislatures. Another model proposed by Alfano (2012) is collaboration between dentists and nurse practitioners. Again, the model is laden with both controversies and opportunities in its development.

Nonetheless, Alfano (2012) argues that this particular model creates novel opportunities for utilizing the existing techniques such as in the utilization of existing reimbursement mechanisms, and in the fulfilment of vital national goals intended to reduce costs in health care delivery (Alfano, 2012, p. 50). More importantly, dentists could not only benefit from the assistance of skilled health care practitioners in the case of emergencies, but would also get to share office expenses.



Alfano, M.C. (2012). Connecting Dental Education to Other Health Professions. Journal of Dental Education, 76(1), 46-51.