Integration of Primary Care and Oral Health

In order to enhance overall patient outcomes, it is crucial to integrate dental health and primary care. In addition, interest in and support for it are growing, according to a 2020 DentaQuest poll.

Innovative models that combine dental treatment with medical, behavioral, and public health services are being developed and put into practice by Federally Qualified Health Centers. The topic of this monograph is these models.

Healthcare companies are looking for new frameworks to assist them accomplish these goals as they concentrate on lowering costs, enhancing quality and patient involvement, and tackling chronic illnesses. One of the most well-liked frameworks is the patient-centered medical home (PCMH).

Primary care managed by a competent provider of the patient's choice is promoted by PCMHs, which are health care models. By fostering connections, emphasizing preventive and general wellbeing, and attending to each patient's particular requirements, these doctors and their staff manage the care of their patients.

This dedication to patient-centered care is evident in practices that are recognized by a national accrediting body. These practices work closely with patients to ensure that their healthcare is in line with their lifestyle objectives and have formed relationships with other community agencies and resources. Premier Family Health & Wellness, located close to West Palm Beach, Florida, is one such instance. The husband-and-wife doctors have constructed an integrated facility that enables patients to take care of practically all of their health-related requirements, including dental work and wellness, in one place.

Many communities encounter obstacles that make long-term partnership challenging. Working with individuals from various cultures, castes, or socioeconomic categories, for instance, might result in mistrust and contention about the responsibilities of each partner in a collaboration.

Gaps persist despite advances toward integrated service delivery. Co-locating oral health and primary care services is a common practice among Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), but genuine integration necessitates upstream measures that boost interprofessional education and cross-training as well as financial alignment.

An online learning collaborative is one technique to help with this kind of transition. The collaborative approach brings together teams that are driven to better their work with specialists from a variety of disciplines, allows for the testing and adoption of new procedures, and records demonstrable quality improvement. Using this methodology, the TISH study discovered that building connections, involving champions from the primary care and oral health programs, and attending frequent meetings enhanced collaboration.

The successful integration of oral health and primary care depends on patient education. The research shows that health-literate interventions make it easier for medical and dental personnel to communicate, collaborate, refer patients, and find their way around.

The production of patient education materials and the identification of prospective joint work plans were two areas of the integration endeavor that state representatives regarded as being significantly facilitated by partnerships with cooperating programs inside their states. Relationships also aided in maintaining collaboration despite staff changes, something other states found difficult.

The process was also aided by champions who were knowledgeable about the advantages of medical-dental integration and who pushed program employees to look for chances for collaboration. Utilizing the numerous practice-based research networks (PBRN) for medicine and dentistry that exist in the country is one method that these connections might be made. These networks may be used as discussion forums for the problems with and potential remedies for integrating dentistry and medical care. They may also be used as a resource for creating and evaluating technologies for integrating dentistry and medical care.

In order to achieve medical-dental integration, many community health programs and Federally Qualified Health Centers are educating patients about the links between their oral health and overall health, promoting preventive services rather than treating issues as they arise, and establishing referral links to dental care. Additionally, these programs could provide suggestions for how to enhance primary care and specialized physicians' coordination, referral, and communication.

School-based oral health programs have a strong emphasis on skill-based learning, and some of them are made to support students in understanding how their surroundings and social factors affect their wellbeing. They could also talk about the value of a balanced diet and how to chew and swallow food properly.

There is evidence that some school-based initiatives can effectively lower the prevalence of dental caries. However, the availability of school-based space and other resources, such as access to water, frequently restricts the spread of these initiatives. Additionally, these initiatives do not address a number of crucial oral disease risk factors such poverty, alcohol, tobacco, and food consumption.


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