The siloed delivery of oral and medical health care in the United States has contributed to a lack of awareness of the consequences of poor oral health and has hampered effective interprofessional education and collaboration. The aim of this study was to assess the knowledge and practice behaviors of primary care medical providers in an urban safety-net hospital regarding collaboration with dentists and integration of oral health into overall health-care delivery.
A 36-item survey was designed in a web-based platform (Survey Monkey®) and electronically distributed in September 2020 to 181 primary care medical providers (physicians, nurses, physician assistants) within a municipal hospital in the Bronx, New York. The questionnaire included sections on demographics, current practices, oral health knowledge, and opinions regarding interprofessional collaboration. Descriptive statistics and bivariate analyses using the chi-square and Fisher’s exact test were performed with a significance level of 0.05.
The response rate was 66% (119 respondents). The vast majority (80%) reported little or no training in oral health and 85% reported no team experience with oral health professionals. Medical providers’ confidence in examining the oral cavity was positively associated with previous additional training (p = 0.001) and with team experience (p = 0.005). The two most commonly reported barriers to willingness to collaborate were lack of formal relationships with dental providers (74%) and competing priorities (69%).
Overall, there is very limited awareness and integration of oral health into the clinical practice of medical providers at this safety-net hospital. However, those providers with previous training and team experience had greater oral health confidence. Given the critical importance of oral health to overall health, increased efforts should be directed to further educate and train medical providers and address barriers to interprofessional care.