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Smiles for Life

ADA endorses national interprofessional oral health curriculum

October 09, 2012

By Stacie Crozier, ADA News staff

Leesburg, Va.—The ADA has endorsed Smiles for Life, a national online oral health curriculum for primary care providers.

Funded by the National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health, the Smiles for Life curriculum is designed by and for primary care clinicians to learn about and promote oral health. The free curriculum offers opportunities for clinicians to learn about and prioritize oral health as well as to partner effectively with each other.

Endorsement: On hand for the Smiles for Life endorsement are, from left, Dr. Sheila Strock, ADA staff, Ralph Fuccillo, DentaQuest Foundation president, Drs. W. Roy Thompson and Monica Hebl, ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations and Alan Douglass, M.D., Smiles for Life founding editor.

“With physicians, nurses, physician assistants and other members of the primary care team joining the fight for oral health, we have a real chance to eradicate the silent epidemic of dental disease,” said Dr. Kathleen O’Loughlin, ADA executive director. “The dental profession looks favorably on the engagement of primary care clinicians who have contact with patients of all ages since they can greatly impact dental disease firsthand.”

The endorsement was announced during the NIIOH 2012 Symposium on Oral Health and Primary Care, Oct. 7-9, in Leesburg, Va.

“The Smiles for Life curriculum provides an educational website for physicians and other medical primary care providers at no cost to the individual,” said Dr. David Holwager, a general dentist in Cambridge City, Ind., and chair of the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations. “Smiles for Life also provides for an exchange of information and the establishment of both a medical and dental home for the patient. The early establishment of such an integrated medical/dental home will help to reduce oral disease in children.”

Since its launch in 2005, the Smiles for Life curriculum has been revised and expanded and today is the nation’s most comprehensive and widely used oral health curriculum designed for primary care clinicians, according to the NIIOH. The eight-module course covers the relationship of oral to systemic health, child oral health, adult oral health, dental emergencies, oral health in pregnancy, fluoride varnish, geriatric oral health and the oral examination. Curricular components of the first two editions of Smiles for Life were downloaded more than 100,000 times.

The current edition is web-based and interactive and can be used by both individuals and health educators in academic settings. It includes educational objectives based on Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education competencies, test questions, resources for further learning, oral health web links, an implementation guide and detailed outlines of the modules.

“Very little time is devoted to oral health education for other health care professional groups during their training,” said Dr. Monica Hebl, a general dentist in Milwaukee and CAPIR vice chair. “The Smiles for Life curriculum enables health professionals to access quality oral health information and education at no cost. This greater awareness has the potential for increased referrals to dentists.”

The NIIOH, a consortium of funders and health professionals, was founded in 2009 with a vision to eradicate dental disease. The group’s mission, posted on its website, is to engage primary care clinicians to be alert to their patients’ oral health needs, ready and willing to deliver oral health preventive services to patients of all ages, effective at partnering with dental specialists, and able to learn from, with and about each other.

Professional organizations that have already officially endorsed this curriculum include the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, the American Association of Public Health Dentistry, NIIOH, the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association, the Association of Faculties of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and the Physician Assistants Education Association.

The Smiles for Life curriculum is online at For more information on the National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health, visit