Oral Health Literacy Efforts Available to Physicians

Posted on May 31, 2016

New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing’s Oral Health Nursing Education and Practice (OHNEP) Program and the American College of Physicians (ACP) have teamed up to create four patient-related oral health literacy fact sheets for distribution to internal medicine physicians and primary care providers.

“Oral health is an important population health issue, but one that is frequently overlooked when clinicians and patients think about their overall health,” said Judith Haber, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Ursula Springer Leadership Professor in Nursing and executive director of the NYU Meyers Oral Health Nursing Education and Practice (OHNEP) Program. “It is optimal when primary care providers, physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, midwives, and physician assistants integrate oral health into primary care encounters and collaborate with their dental colleagues."

A growing body of scientific evidence shows links between oral health and overall health, especially for those with chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

"The Oral Health Patient FACTS will help internists and primary care physicians integrate oral health into their practice," said ACP President Nitin Damle, MD, MS, FACP. “These educational resources will help patients understand that good oral health is important to overall health.”

Written in an easily accessible engaging style, in both English and Spanish, with high-quality relatable imagery, the Oral Health Patient FACTS are now available to download from ACP’s website and the OHNEP website.

The Oral Health Patient FACTS were designed to be user-friendly, easy to understand, and aim to improve patients' oral health literacy by providing information about how oral health and overall health are connected.

The OHNEP/NIIOH sponsored ACP-oral health literacy initiative, The patient-focused facts cover the following topics: Oral Health Overview (Spanish version), Oral Health and Diabetes (Spanish version), Oral Health and Older Adults (Spanish version), Oral Health and HPV (Spanish version).

“A person’s oral health impacts their overall health and their quality of life,” said Dr. Erin Harnett, DNP, PNP, BC, Director of the OHNEP Program. “Patients with chronic disease, such as diabetes, are at increased risk for both oral complications and adverse health outcomes if their oral complications go untreated. Late-stage oral disease often results in significant and wasteful healthcare spending.”

“Primary care teams have the skills necessary to understand and intervene in the oral disease process; the relationships needed to engage patients and families in oral health self-care; and a structure for coordinating referrals to dentistry and supporting patients during transitions of care, particularly high-risk and vulnerable patients who bear the greatest burden of oral disease,” said Ralph Fuccillo, President and CEO of the DentaQuest Foundation.

“The primary care delivery system is in the midst of a transformation, striving to provide more patient-centered and team-based care,” said Dr. Haber. “This evolution provides new resources, and a new responsibility for addressing oral health as a component of comprehensive, whole-person care. This is why we put together the Oral Health Patient FACTS sheets, because we believe that in order to reduce the burden of oral disease and promote health equity, the efforts and skills of all healthcare team members, including patients, is a must!”

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