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Oral Health: An Essential Component of Primary Care

Qualis Health recently published a white paper and released a video about the importance of incorporating preventive oral healthcare into routine medical visits. Often, primary care physicians are in a perfect position to detecting oral disease early and to engage families of young children in a discussion about preventing oral disease. The Qualis Health Oral Health Delivery Framework provides a practical way integrate discussion about oral health into a routine medical visit.

Problems we can solve

Oral health is important to overall health and development over the course of a lifetime. Nationwide, we have a very high incidence of oral disease with dental caries being the most chronic disease of childhood. One-quarter of all adults suffer from untreated caries, periodontal disease, tooth pain, and systemic infection. Untreated oral disease can negatively impact overall health.

How to help

Oral health is a component of whole-person care, and primary care providers are in the perfect position to provide access to oral health preventive care to all patients, and especially young children. High-risk and vulnerable patients are most likely to suffer from oral disease, but if primary care providers intervene with preventive care instruction and early detection of disease, patients and their families can get the help they need before oral disease becomes a more serious problem. If primary care physicians and dentists work together as part of a healthcare team, the burden of oral disease can be greatly reduced. However, neither side can do it alone.

The Oral Health Delivery Framework

During a routine office visit, the primary care physician has five action categories:

  • Ask: Inquire about oral health risk factors and about any symptoms of oral disease
  • Look: Examine patient for signs of risk of disease
  • Decide: Determine what the next steps should be
  • Act: Offer advice on preventive care or make a referral for treatment
  • Document: Keep data to organize information, measure the care process, and follow up on outcomes.

The white paper goes on to describe ways in which other stakeholders like dentists, payers, policymakers, patient and family advocates, and educators can work together to support primary care's engagement in oral health.

By incorporating oral health into a routine medical visit, primary care providers can be on the first line of defense to prevent oral disease from negatively impacting overall health and well-being. By putting the Oral Health Delivery Framework into practice, our collective goal to provide comprehensive, whole-person care for children and adults can be achieved.

TeethFirst! Creating healthy smiles for a lifetime.