© 2016 FDI World Dental FederationDespite great progress in oral health over the past three decades, the rates of caries remain high in Australia, particularly among underserved populations. The reasons for poor oral health amongst underserved populations are multiple, but rests with socio-economic determinants of health. The present review considers international workforce models that have been created to enhance the recruitment and retention of dental providers in rural areas. Several strategies have been developed to address care access problems in rural areas, including the use of telemedicine and mid-level dental providers (MLDPs). Despite ongoing opposition from dentistry organisations, the Alaska and Minnesota workforce models have proven that developing and deploying dental therapists from rural communities has the potential to address the unmet needs of underserved populations. It is more efficient and cost-effective for MLDPs to perform triage and treat simple cases and for dentists to treat complicated cases. The use of MLDPs is intended to increase the capacity of the dental workforce in areas that are too isolated to entice dentists. Telemedicine has emerged as one solution to address limited access to health care, particularly in locations where there is a lack of providers. Telemedicine not only provides access to care, but also offers support, consultations and access to continuing education for practicing dental providers in rural areas. This strategy has the potential to free up resources to increase care access and reduce oral health disparities, thereby contributing to closing the rural–urban oral health gap.