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Elizabeth Mertz Ph.D., M.A.

Dental Care Delivery Systems, Dental Health Policy, Dental Workforce, Dental Sociology, Oral Health Disparities, Dental finance and regulation

Elizabeth Mertz Ph.D., M.A.

Dr. Mertz is a dental sociologist, health services and dental policy researcher. Her work focuses on the role of the health professions within the changing health care system and the implications for access to high quality, affordable health care.  The majority of her research has been focused on access to dental services and related professional and delivery system issues within dentistry, including trends in the dental and dental hygiene workforce and labor market issues such as shortages, role differentiation, diversity, demand and supply. Her recent research has focused on workforce innovations and care delivery system changes in dental care in relation to diversity, disparities, access to care, and oral health outcomes and quality improvement. She is Principal Investigator on several recent projects; a national sample survey of Underrepresented Minority Dentists which will be the first ever documentation of the contributions of minority providers to minority oral health care; an evaluation of implementation of clinical decision support tools in a large group practice, and new models for providing dental care in long term care settings.

Research on the dental care delivery system and the dental workforce is rarely framed within sociological theory or practice. Past sociological studies of dentistry, while informative, are considerably out of date. The current dental care environment is on the verge of potentially rapid change; faced with ongoing access to care problems, increasing health disparities, advances in science and technology and changing economic and political conditions, the professions and  policy-makers are actively searching out new solutions.  Understanding these challenges and changes will require the use of a wide sociological lens; one that can fully account for the power of the professions and the agency of their members, but that can also account for trends in the organizational, environmental and social context. Her research agenda is to advance the understanding of dental care delivery systems and professions in a way that will help policy makers, educators, and practitioners improve their ability to translate science into practice and address the oral health care needs of the public through affordable, high quality, accessible services.

Selected publications:

Mertz E, Grumbach K. (2001) Community Characteristics that Predict the Low Supply of Dentists in California, Journal of Public Health Dentistry. 61(3) 172-177.

Mertz E, O'Neil, E. (2002) The Growing Challenge of Providing Oral Health Care Services for all Americas. Health Affairs. 21(5)65-77.

Mertz, E and Mouradian, W. (2009) Addressing Children's Oral Health in the New Millennium: Trends in the Dental Workforce. Academic Pediatrics, Special issue on Children's Oral Health. December. 9(6): 433-439. PMCID: PMC2814077 [Available on 2010/11/1]

Mertz, E, and Finocchio, L. (2010) Improving Oral Health Care Systems through Workforce Innovations. Journal of Public Health Dentistry. 70 (s1), ps1-s5. PMCID: PMC3325903.

Mertz, E. and Glassman, P (2011) Alternative Practice Dental Hygiene in California: Past, Present, Future. California Dental Association Journal. Special Issue. 39(1): 37-46. January. PMCID: PMC3325901.

Kitchener, M and Mertz, E (2012) Professional Projects and Institutional Change in Healthcare: The Case of American Dentistry. Social Science and Medicine. 74:372-380. Online Oct 23, 2010 (Epub). PMC3116978 [Available 4\23\2012].