A Special Note of Welcome to Physicians, Nurses, & Other Healthcare Providers

Dear Friends and Colleagues in Non-Dental Healthcare Professions,

Thank you for your interest in oral-systemic science, and its application to your clinical practice.

As you know, scientific investigation conducted over several recent decades has provided compelling evidence that overall health can be directly related to controlling infection and inflammation within the oral cavity. We also know that establishing a healthy oral environment is conducive to overall health and well-being. As such, oral diseases have garnered a lot of attention from governmental authorities, professional organizations, health departments, insurance companies, radio, television and press.

With this emerging body of knowledge has also come increased awareness that among non-dental healthcare providers (HCPs), (e.g., physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and the greater allied health care community) there is a significant void in knowledge of the relationships between oral and systemic health, or recognition of the significance of oral health in achieving and sustaining general health outcomes. Regardless of when or how the study of the oral cavity became separated from the study of other organ systems, non-dental HCPs have generally considered oral health the domain of dentists and dental hygienists. Today, there is a major call for increased awareness of the significance of oral health and related competencies in the pre-licensure and continuing education of physicians, nurses, dieticians, and other non-dental HCPs.

The Difference Non-Dental Healthcare Providers Could Make

Some of the most well supported oral-systemic interrelationships include evidence that periodontal disease may increase the risk for a number of inflammatory driven disease states or conditions, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and respiratory diseases. Another significant oral-systemic interrelationship is the connection between nutrition, oral health, and overall health. Given appropriate education and training, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, speech pathologists and other non-dental HCPs could impact the epidemiologic trends in serious and often debilitating oral diseases and conditions. If practitioners like you were trained to screen and appropriately triage patients for such things as oral cancer and mucocutaneous diseases, oral complications of treatment of certain systemic diseases and conditions, oral-facial pain and temporomandibular joint disturbances, caries, and inflammatory periodontal diseases, this could significantly facilitate access to oral healthcare in underserved populations and influence a number of disease trajectories known to be complicated by oral infections.

You and other non-dental HCPs have an important role to play in prevention and emergency management of oral trauma, sustaining the oral health of immunocompromised patients and special needs patients, managing the oral complications of eating disorders and gastric conditions, adjusting pharmaceutical therapies to ensure the integrity of the oral cavity, addressing the oral aspects of sleep apnea and other airway management issues, and properly attending to special medical precautions related to the oral cavity. Non-dental HCPs can also be enlisted as valuable members of interprofessional teams in prevention and health promotion – producing oral health rather than restoring oral health. Various cases such as patients with cardiovascular disease, those undergoing chemo- and radiation therapy, and implant and organ transplant recipients require collaboration and coordination between non-dental HCPs and oral HCPs to provide integrated medical and oral health care. Non-dental HCPs in long-term and geriatric care facilities may be the principal sources of oral health care given to residents. The public health infrastructure for dental care is insufficient to address the needs of many high risk populations. Given an inequitable distribution of dentists and dental hygienists, non-dental HCPs are also well positioned to provide basic dental care for people in nursing home facilities, homeless shelters, refugee camps and low resource countries, in addition to many other oral health services that have been traditionally provided by oral HCPs.

The Ultimate Impact

As non-dental HCPs become more informed of the interrelationships between oral and systemic health, we can expect that physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and the healthcare community at large will increasingly integrate this body of knowledge in their critical assessment of patients, and factor into case management the implication of oral health. The expectation is that ultimately, this will positively impact patient outcomes.

Translating Evidence into Clinical Practice

There was a time when research on oral-systemic relationships was reported solely in dental journals. In recent years, compelling evidence of how oral diseases and conditions may compromise systemic health has been published in many highly respected medical journals. However, translating this evidence into the clinical practice of non-dental HCPs has been challenging. One of the most important aspects of the mission of Casey Hein & Associates is to bridge this knowledge-to-action gap by providing educational programming that motivates you to adopt preventive and screening practices that will identify patients at risk for oral diseases and conditions and empower you to appropriately refer these at risk patients to oral healthcare providers.

I hope you will take advantage of the resources we have provided on www.caseyhein.com, and the accredited CME courses on www.oralhealthed.com. Please note that many of the courses offered on www.oralhealthed.com are part of the curriculum in Oral-Systemic Health Education for Non-Dental Healthcare Providers developed by the University of Manitoba. These courses are free. Please assist us in fulfilling our mission by providing input on how we can better help you achieve your educational goals to improve the health of your patients through application of oral-systemic science.

Warmest regards,

President, Casey Hein & Associates, LLC

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