about oral health care and health policy in the United States and Canada. Essential
care, essential medicines, and universal health coverage (UHC) are examples in which
the 2 terms are used, but the exact meaning remains, at times, unclear or varies depending
on the context. Both terms also feature prominently in the Global Strategy on Oral
Health of the World Health Organization, which was approved in May 2022.
A clear understanding of what exactly is meant by these 2 words and, especially,
how they relate to each other in the context of public and political debates around
oral health services is necessary for meaningful discourse. This commentary tries
to untangle the relationship between essential and universal in oral health care.
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Draft Global Strategy on Oral Health (A75/10 Add.1). World Health Organization. Accessed June 30, 2022. https://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA75/A75_10Add1-en.pdf
Essential (adjective). Merriam-Webster.
Pandemic considerations on essential oral health care.
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Universal (adjective). Merriam-Webster.
Universal health coverage (UHC). April 1, 2021. World Health Organization. Accessed June 30, 2022. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/universal-health-coverage-(uhc)
COVID-19 has clarified 2 foundational policy questions in dentistry.
JDR Clin Trans Res. 2020; 5: 297-299
Including oral diseases and conditions in universal health coverage.
Bull World Health Organ. 2021; 99 (407-407)
Progressive realisation of universal health coverage: what are the required processes and evidence.
BMJ Glob Health. 2017; 2e000342
Dr. Benzian is a research professor, Department Epidemiology and Health Promotion, and a codirector, WHO Collaborating Center Quality Improvement and Evidence-based Dentistry, College of Dentistry, New York University, New York, NY.
Dr. Beltrán-Aguilar is an adjunct profesor, Department Epidemiology and Health Promotion, and a codirector, WHO Collaborating Center Quality Improvement and Evidence-based Dentistry, College of Dentistry, New York University, New York, NY.
Dr. Niederman is a professor and the chair, Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, College of Dentistry, New York University, New York, NY.
Published online: September 19, 2022
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Disclosures. None of the authors reported any disclosures.
Commentaries represent the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of the American Dental Association.
© 2022 American Dental Association. All rights reserved.
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