The Department of Dental Ecology's mission concerns itself with understanding and enhancing the ability of the dental health professional to analyze and act upon the environmental factors that influence oral health and the provision of dental services. The ever-changing and broad scope of these factors defines the research, teaching and service endeavors and mandates the multi-disciplinary nature of the departmental faculty and staff. For dental health professionals to effectively anticipate, assess and initiate or respond to change, they will require skills in population based analysis and knowledge about health service delivery systems, the financing of health services, basic health and research design. Such concepts are focused on oral health by departmental activities in:
- The sociology and psychology of dentistry
- The epidemiology of oral conditions
- Health policy and the planning of oral health services
- The organization and delivery of care to patient populations with special needs.
The provision of personal dental services depends upon knowledge and skills in interpersonal communication, needs assessment and treatment planning, consultative and interprofessional relations, quality assurance, coordination of dental team responsibilities, and principles of practice management. This knowledge is actualized in the Department's study and modeling of how patients with special needs (disabled, medically or psychologically compromised, geriatric, socially disadvantaged) may most effectively receive care and by understanding the social, behavioral, and clinical factors that influence decision-making, treatment and the context of care. The Department serves as a focus of research and scholarship regarding the oral health care system and its changes. This expertise helps in the preparation of students who can contribute to the enhancement of the effectiveness, quality and equity of dental health care and the improvement of oral health.