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Medical Professionals

Why is it important for medical professionals to know about oral health?

The mouth is part of the body! We’re learning more about the relationship between oral health and systemic health across the lifespan. Among adults, we know:

  • People with periodontal disease (inflammation of the gums and bone surrounding the teeth) who also have diabetes will face more difficultly controlling blood sugar levels. 
  • Poor oral health is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Certain medications or treatments for systemic diseases can have a profound impact on the health of the mouth.

Among children, dental disease also has a big impact on health. Recent national data indicate that more than half of children ages 6-8 years have experienced tooth decay, and disparities in tooth decay persist among some race and ethnic groups. Access to dental care remains a problem for many young children, especially those from low-income families. 

Among children younger than 2 years who are eligible for Medicaid in Ohio, only about 8 percent had a dental visit in 2014. It’s far more common for children of this age to get checkups by a primary medical care provider such as a physician or nurse practitioner than to go to a dentist. Because of this, it makes sense for these professionals to know about dental diseases in young children and how to prevent them.

Training Resources

Help Me Smile is an online self-study course for home visitors and medical providers working with caregivers, pregnant mothers, infants, toddlers, young children and adolescents. The training is free for nurses, dietitians and child care providers, and those who provide services to persons who are developmentally disabled.

Smiles for Life, developed by the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, is an interactive oral health curriculum designed for primary care clinicians. Its seven modules cover the relationship of oral to systemic health, child oral health, adult oral health, dental emergencies, oral health in pregnancy, fluoride varnish and the oral examination. Medical providers can be reimbursed for the application of fluoride varnish for children enrolled in Medicaid. See details on the Fluoride Varnish webpage.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has launched its new Children's Oral Health website that provides easy-to-use oral health practice tools, resources, education and training for pediatricians and other health care professionals.

Guidelines for Oral Health Screening in Ohio's Schools provides practical guidance for school nurses who choose to conduct school-based oral health screening. Printed copies of the materials are available to Ohio school nurses by submitting a completed order form to the Oral Health Program.

Oral Care Basics for Caregivers is a 21-minute instructional video/DVD and booklet for direct-care providers in group homes, nursing homes or home-care settings and can be purchased for $6.

The Dental First Aid Chart outlines procedures for administering dental first aid following a head or mouth injury.

The National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center (NMCOHRC) offers training and resource materials for medical professionals.

Dental Safety Net Clinics

The dental “safety net” includes public dental clinics, school-based dental care and mobile/portable dental care programs. Dental safety net clinics provide dental care to patients covered by Medicaid, and offer sliding-fees, reduced fees or free care to patients who can't afford to pay a private dentist. These clinics are mostly run by local health departments, health centers, hospitals and other organizations. 

If you need to refer a patient to a dental safety net clinic, please view this spreadsheet or the printable brochure to find a clinic in your area. Counties that are not listed do not have a dental safety net clinic. Learn more about Ohio's dental safety net clinics.

Last Updated: 10/18/17