The Wicked Problem of the Oral Health Care System: An Introduction

Published 10/06/2021

A “wicked problem” is one that has complex causes, is interconnected with other problems, and is difficult to describe. There is not one solution to the problem; instead, there are multiple approaches that collectively can foster change in a positive direction.

The oral health system fits this description. Addressing the wicked problem of the oral health system requires rethinking the entire system while acknowledging that the problem is complex, heterogeneous, and influenced by multiple factors.

This editorial, an introduction to a special issue of the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, explains why the oral health system is a wicked problem and explores opportunities for addressing different aspects of it. The editorial identifies three major areas for transformation:

  • Care transformation
  • Data and analytic transformation
  • Payment transformation that includes alternative payment models

The article also mentions several more specific initiatives underway to facilitate these transformations.

View the article

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