Key Concept: Interprofessional Collaboration

Interprofessional collaboration between dental professionals and other health and social service providers can greatly improve your community’s ability to provide oral health care to older adults. Health care and social service providers that haven’t traditionally delivered oral health services—such as physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and social workers—can contribute to oral health in a variety of ways. A consortium of funders and health professionals with a vision to eradicate dental disease, the National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health (NIIOH) works specifically to facilitate collaboration and dialogue among primary care physicians, physician assistants, dental professionals, and funders to bridge the gap between oral health and primary care.

“[Patients] appreciate that their doctor cares about their mouth. You can see the light bulb come on for patients, not dissimilar to the light bulb that came on for us doctors when we realized we were leaving oral health out.” – Dr. Eric Penniman, DO, Medical Director for Primary Care at Marshfield Clinic

With funding from the DentaQuest Foundation, the Washington Dental Service Foundation, and the REACH Foundation, NIIOH has developed the following tools and resources to enable interprofessional learning and collaboration across health professions. The curricula and integration frameworks listed below can help you integrate oral health services into overall health care.

  • Smiles for Life Curriculum – A product of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, the Smiles for Life curriculum provides educational resources to facilitate integration of oral health into primary care. The curriculum consists of online modules covering core areas of oral health, with courses on older adults and other specific populations. Smiles for Life has also developed a mobile app to support clinical decision-making.
  • Oral Health Delivery Framework (PDF) – Developed by Qualis Health, the Oral Health Delivery Framework outlines different ways that primary care practices integrate oral health services into patient-centered medical homes and promote oral health activities. The Oral Health Integration Implementation Guide (anticipated release fall 2016) will provide guidance, resources, and tools to help primary care practices integrate oral health services, drawing on the experience of 19 field-testing sites piloting the Oral Health Delivery Framework.
  • Oral Health Nursing Education and Practice Initiative – Led by the New York University College of Nursing, the Oral Health Nursing Education and Practice Initiative aims to integrate oral health practices into nursing training programs and practice settings. The initiative has added the oral component to the traditional head, eyes, ears, nose, and throat exam.
  • Physician Assistant Leadership Initiative in Oral Health – This initiative is a collaboration of national organizations overseeing physician assistant education, accreditation, certification, and practice. Tools and resources are available from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants Health Foundation.