Integration of Oral Health Into the Well-Child Visit at Federally Qualified Health Centers: Study of 6 Clinics, August 2014–March 2015
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Integration of Oral Health Into the Well-Child Visit at Federally Qualified Health Centers: Study of 6 Clinics, August 2014–March 2015

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  • Alternative Title:
    Prev Chronic Dis
  • Description:

    Early childhood caries, the most common chronic childhood disease, affects primary dentition and can impair eating, sleeping, and school performance. The disease is most prevalent among vulnerable populations with limited access to pediatric dental services. These same children generally receive well-child care at federally qualified health centers. The objective of this study was to identify facilitators and barriers to the integration of oral health into pediatric primary care at health centers to improve problem recognition, delivery of preventive measures, and referral to a dentist.


    We collected and analyzed background data and data from structured observations and 39 interviews with administrators and staff at 6 clinics in 2 states, Maryland and Massachusetts.


    Participants valued oral health across professional roles but cited limited time, lack of training and expertise, low caregiver literacy, and lack of shared medical and dental electronic records as barriers to cooperation. Facilitators included an upper-level administration with the vision to see the value of integration, designated team leaders, and champions. An administration’s vision, not structural determinants, patient characteristics, or geographic location, predicted the level of integration. Interviewees generated multilevel recommendations to promote delivery of oral health preventive measures and services during a well-child visit.


    Poor oral health contributes to health care disparities. Barriers to integrating dental care into pediatric medical practice at health centers must be overcome to improve oral health for children living in poverty, with a disability, at a rural address, or any combination of these. Implementation will require adapting delivery systems to support multidisciplinary collaboration. Strategies suggested here may point the way to enhancing children’s oral health.

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