Interprofessional care is the process that includes screening, triage, and treatment by various health care professionals that have knowledge of the particular health issue. It is a partnership that creates an team designed to work on common goals to improve patient outcomes.  Interprofessional care improves the management of chronic diseases such as in diabetes, asthma and dentistry. Skills in working as an interprofessional team are gained through education that is important in understanding the disease entities, as well as working as a team to improve patient care, reduce costs, and improve patient’s experiences

The major reason that there has been an impetus for interprofessional care for the prevention of early childhood caries is that currently most children under the age of three do not have routine care by a dentist, yet dental caries already affects approximately 30% of poor three year old U.S. children.  However, during this first three years of a child’s life physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, lay health care workers will see children of this age multiple times per year.  For those children that are at caries risk, MS colonization and the carious process often begin before the first birthday. Therefore, a dental component of a medical exam may consist of examination of the teeth, anticipatory guidance counseling, performing preventive procedures such as a fluoride varnish treatment, and establishing a “dental home” has been recommended for all infants at 12 months.  Yet, the capacity of dental providers willing to see infants is fixed, and if such services were implemented among all one-year-olds, those children identified with caries risk may be “crowded out” and not receive care.  Thus from a public health perspective, it may be prudent not to recommend dental referral at age one for children at low caries risk, and include the interprofessional team in examination, counseling and triage of infants.

An important resource for learning about dental caries in children and working as a collaborative team can be found in the resource -- Smiles for Life: A National Oral Health Curriculum that can be accessed at www.SmilesforLifeOralHealth.org

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