Integration of Oral Health and Primary Care Practice

Executive Summary

Lack of access to oral health care contributes to profound and enduring oral health disparities in the United States. Millions of Americans lack access to basic oral health care. In 2008, 4.6 million children – one out of every 16 children in the United States did not receive needed dental care because their families could not afford it. Children are only one of the many vulnerable and underserved populations that face persistent, systemic barriers to accessing oral health care.

The United States health care system is able to provide acute care but continues to struggle to address the need for ongoing care, especially for vulnerable populations such as the elderly, disabled, mentally ill, and special needs populations. Safety net organizations that provide health services to uninsured, low-income, and vulnerable persons continue to look for ways to coordinate services among providers to improve access to quality care. 

The 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports, Advancing Oral Health in America and Improving Access for Oral Health for the Vulnerable and Underserved, recommended that the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) address the need for improved access to oral health care through the development of oral health core competencies for health care professionals. In response, HRSA developed the Integration of Oral Health and Primary Care Practice (IOHPCP) initiative with three inter-related components. The first component was the creation of a HRSA prepared draft set of oral health core clinical competencies appropriate for primary care clinicians. The second component was the presentation of a systems approach to delineate the interdependent elements that would influence the implementation and adoption of the core competencies into primary care practice. Finally, the third was the characterization and outline of the basis for implementation strategies and translation into primary care practice in safety net settings. 

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