Oral Health: An Essential Component of Primary Care
Oral health is essential for healthy development and healthy aging, yet nationwide there is an unacceptably high burden of oral disease.This new white paper makes the case for incorporating preventive oral healthcare as a component of routine medical care and structuring referrals to dentistry. Developed in partnership with a panel of experts, including primary care and dental care providers; leaders from medical, nursing, and dental associations; payers and policymakers; a patient and family partnership expert; and oral health and public health advocates, the Oral Health Delivery Framework provides a practical method for primary care teams of all types to engage patients and families in the prevention and early detection of oral disease. The Framework builds upon a recent report from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that confirmed primary care providers are positioned to develop interprofessional core clinical competencies for oral health preventive care, and with training can reliably identify and intervene in the oral disease process. The Oral Health Delivery Framework is a conceptual framework for how to address oral health in the primary care setting. While evidence for this framework is not as robust as for other primary care delivery models (e.g., Chronic Care Model), it is built on sound clinical concepts and informed by the successful experience of behavioral health integration efforts. Diverse primary care settings such as Marshfield Clinic, Confluence Health, and The Child and Adolescent Clinic (featured as case examples in this paper), and the Group Health Cooperative, have successfully incorporated some components of the Framework and are models from which to learn. In addition, the Oral Health Delivery Framework is being tested in over a dozen private practices and community health centers in five states.