Educating Pediatricians and Family Physicians in Children's Oral Health

A 2000 Surgeon General report issued a call to action for family physicians and pediatricians to promote oral health in their practices for young children, particularly in rural and underserved areas.

In this article, the authors examine how physicians have been engaged to improve access and reduce dental disease in children.

Since publication of the report:

  • Graduate medical education residency programs now require that oral health education be part of the family medicine curriculum. This means that newly-trained physicians will be taught to conduct oral exams, offer preventive strategies and refer patients to dentists.
  • “Smile for Life: A National Oral Health Curriculum” has been endorsed by the American Academy of Family Physicians and is available on the Web at no cost.
  • Training programs for practicing physicians and pediatricians—including model ones in North Carolina, California and Washington—have expanded access to dental care and oral preventive services for children.

The authors recommend that educational programs be evaluated for the effect on the oral health of the children they serve and that closer medical-dental collaborations be fostered at all levels of the educational continuum.