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Family physicians' group backs oral health primary care plan

January 12, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

Dr. Silk

Dr. Fagan
The role primary care teams play in preventive oral health care is at the center of a white paper that in December gained the support of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
The white paper highlights the importance of preventive oral health care and offers tips and suggested actions primary care teams and other health care professionals, including dentists, policymakers and educators, can take to help protect and promote oral health.
"Patients are in our office seeking primary care; it is our responsibility to know something about every aspect of their body — their feet, their eyes, their heart and their mouth, too," said Hugh Silk, M.D., chair of the Oral Health Member Interest Group for the Academy of Family Physicians, and a member of the Medical Advisory Committee and Public Health Advisory Committee for the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations. "We need to be able to offer preventive advice, perform a risk history and oral exam, and make timely and appropriate dental referrals."
The ADA helped develop the June white paper that presents the preventive care delivery model. Dr. Jane Grover, director of the ADA council was a member of the whitepaper's Technical Expert Panel.
The ADA has a long history of promoting medical-dental partnerships. The ADA House of Delegates in 2004 has passed policy stating that physicians and their properly supervised and trained designees "be allowed to provide preventive dental services to infants and young children." In 2014, it was amended to include people of all ages.
The American Academy of Family Physicians' support of the white paper demonstrates "more people and particularly health organizations are understanding the importance of oral health in overall health," said Dr. Tim Fagan, a pediatric dentist in Oklahoma and the chair of the ADA council's Subcommittee on Interprofessional Relations.
"Physicians and other health care professionals in primary care settings can be advocates for improved oral health through several activities. They can be trained to identify dental and gum disease, then make appropriate referrals to dentists as necessary. They can help their patients understand the importance of regular dental care and the establishment of a dental home; and counsel patients on diet and oral hygiene."
For more information on or to read the white paper, Oral Health: An Essential Component of Primary Care, which was commissioned by the National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health with support from the DentaQuest Foundation, the REACH Healthcare Foundation and the Washington Dental Service Foundation, go to and search for the title.