Dental Public Health

What is Dental Public Health in Canada?

Dental Public Health is the science and art of preventing and controlling dental diseases and promoting oral health through organized community efforts. It is that form of dental practice that serves the community as a client rather than the individual. It is concerned with dental health education of the public, with applied dental research, and with the administration of group dental care plans, as well as the prevention and control of dental diseases on a community basis. 

Dental Public Health Dentistry is a recognized dental specialty in Canada.  CAPHD represents Public Health Dentists through the Canadian Dental Specialties Association, which is an affiliate of the Canadian Dental Association.

CAPHD encourages dental public health professionals to adopt the Public Health Agency of Canada's Core Competencies for Public Health in Canada and the Dental Public Health Discipline Specific Competencies. These set a standard for dental public health in Canada, provide a foundation for enhanced education and professional development and will ultimately strengthen the public health capacity in Canada.

Meet some of our members and find out why they chose dental public health as a career:

Dr. Luke Shwart
DMD, MBA Dental Public Health Officer, Population & Public Health:

"By Grade 11 the possibility of Dentistry had not even crossed my mind, but each day during Career Week we had to select one of three sessions.  On Thursday nothing seemed interesting, but I ended up in the room with the dentist.  Until that moment, I thought I had to choose just one thing: arts or sciences or helping people.  Suddenly the light went on - Dentistry encouraged you to do all those things together!  That moment was the key to my future, and I haven't looked back.  

After some years in private practice, it got even better:  Dental Public Health means using your scientific training and creative talents to help make healthier communities.   As you mature, gaining knowledge, skills and confidence - you do things in your 30s that you couldn't in your 20s, and investing in education gives you the ability to do things in your 50s that you couldn't in your 40s.  This profession allows you to grow and expand your horizons, and involves you in a community of intelligent and dedicated people across the country."

Ms. Faye Souter
Dental Therapist:

"I shifted from private practice to public health, somewhat by chance. I attended the National School of Dental Therapy, intending to return to private practice. My practicum was set in Canad's Arctic, where I gained an understanding of the pressing dental needs of children, families and communities where access to dental care was limited. I decided that working as a public health dental therapist was purposeful and I wanted to contribute to the well being of others.

This decision set my family and I on an adventure, of sorts. Working for the Government of Nunavut, I traveled to isolated communities delivering routine and emergency dental services. My adult son, who was seven years old when we moved to Nunavut, often expresses how grateful he is to have experienced living in the north.  After Nunavut, I moved into an administrative position, as a dental health advisor for First Nations in Northern Saskatchewan. Currently, I work with Health Canada as a Dental Therapist providing preventative services to 4 First Nation Communities in Alberta through the Children's Oral Health Initiative (COHI).

My work in public health has been a fulfilling experience and gives me the opportunity for personal and professional growth. I have the privilege of working with a diverse group of people at a community level and work as a member of a multi disciplinary team. It has been rewarding on many levels and I see many opportunities in the future."

Dr. Peter Cooney 
Chief Dental Officer of Health 

"I've always been interested in oral health.  Of course everyone goes to a dentist - not always totally voluntarily. I grew up in Ireland where decay rates were quite high.  So we all had to sit and have ourselves drilled.  That's when I got interested in the whole issue of oral health.  I was in private practice for a number of years, in London, England.  Then I did my Canadian exams, and bought a practice in Newfoundland.  I spent five years out there.  It was a very busy practice and I loved it there.  I then left dental practice and looked at public health dentistry.  Public health dentistry is where you are able to work with the whole community.  You have a much broader effect. 

To get more involved in dental public health, I trained at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry in Community Dentistry. I then worked in the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada, a branch that delivers services to approximately one million First Nations and Inuit people.  My current position as the Chief Dental Officer within Health Canada gives me an opportunity to work with the whole population - basically 33 million people. That really was the thing that interested me about this position - that it is all encompassing and involves the whole of Canada."

Dr. Peter Cooney was appointed Chief Dental Officer with Health Canada in 2004. He joined Health Canada in 1991 and worked with Health Canad's First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) in Manitoba Region, was appointed the National Dental Officer in 1997 and served as the Director General of the Non-Insured Health Benefits Directorate from 1999 to 2003.

Dr. Cooney completed his Specialty, Masters and Fellowship in Community Dentistry. He is a Past President of the Canadian Association of Public Health Dentistry and a former Chief Examiner for the specialty of Dental Public Health with the Royal College of Dentists of Canada.  He is currently cross-appointed as an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Dentistry and Chair of the World Dental Federation's International Chief Dental Officers Public Health Section.

Andrea Richard
Registered Dental Hygienist

"During my dental hygiene education, I always knew that community oral health was the career I desired.  I had so much fun during placements and volunteer experiences that after graduation I set my sights on getting a job in community health.  It wasn't long before I was immersed in the world of community health where each day offered variety and diversity.  I've had the opportunity to fly to remote First Nation Communities to provide oral health services, assess and provide referrals for homeless individuals in downtown Calgary, provide mobile dental hygiene services for children without dental insurance, educate, promote health, develop surveillance tools and oral health programs, advocate for improved health policies and work on interdisciplinary teams.  As a student I would have never guessed that my mentors would include nurses, physicians, health promoters, social workers, Aboriginal elders and dieticians but that's exactly what happens when you work in public health…you are welcomed into a community where everyone learns from one another and works cohesively to improve the health of the whole population.  I love that my career offers life long learning opportunities and has taken me to different parts of the country where I have had the opportunity to influence health at the community level."


Membership benefits

  • Conference fee discounts
  • Student Bursaries
  • Subscription to our newsletter
  • Member discussion groups
  • Gain a voice for DPH in Canada