It's time to examine best approaches to physician-dentist collaboration

LETTER — Posted Jan. 19, 2004

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Regarding: "Oral health: Doctors, dentists collaborate" (Article, Dec. 1, 2003): Thank you for highlighting a health issue that is often overlooked in the medical community, oral health.

A valuable contribution to further discussion of the issue took place in June 2003. The Children's Dental Health Project, a Washington-based policy research and advocacy organization, coordinated an unprecedented invitational meeting to explicate issues at the interface of medicine and dentistry. "Interfaces: Explicating the Interfaces between Primary Care Dentistry and Medicine for At-Risk Young Children" (link) included representatives from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Dental Assn., American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, and other dental and non-dental health professionals, advocates and policy-makers participated in this invitational meeting.

Among the key issues discussed were the advantages and limits of augmenting access through physicians, the age of a first dental visit and its association with risk, the value and nature of a referral for dental care, and interprofessional education and training. Improved cooperation, coordination and communication between physicians and dentists are strategies to address oral health disparities and disease burden.

Numerous issues beyond just educating physicians about the oral cavity need to be addressed if a valuable interface of medicine and dentistry is to be achieved. Now is the time to address some of these issues, evaluate the existing efforts, find best practices and disseminate them for the health of our patients.

David M. Krol, MD, New York, N.Y.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/01/19/edlt0119.htm.

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