One aim of the Anthology series is to provide a retrospective look at the Foundation's work in fields where it made a contribution years ago but that are not among its current priorities. In last year's Anthology, for example, Digby Diehl chronicled the Foundation's role in establishing emergency medical services during the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1998–1999 Anthology, Terrance Keenan explored the Foundation's early support, also during the 1970s and 1980s, of the emerging professions of nurse-practitioners and physician assistants. Dentistry is another field where the Foundation played a role two and three decades ago but has not remained involved.
At present, the Foundation has just four grants relating to dental care out of a total of more than 2,200 active grants. However, between 1972 and 1991 the Foundation supported seven national programs—and many smaller ones—in the field of dentistry. This chapter explores the variety of approaches taken to improve the delivery and the quality of dental care. These range from scholarships for medical students to large-scale research studies and from programs to increase disabled persons' access to dental services to developing leaders in the field.