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Oral health services in primary care nursing centers: opportunities for dental hygiene and nursing collaboration

Oral health services in primary care nursing centers: opportunities for dental hygiene and nursing collaboration

Journal of Dental Hygiene 73(2): 69-77

The basic oral health needs of more than 100 million Americans are not being met, which places them at an increased risk for serious oral and systemic health consequences. Primary care nursing centers, a comparatively new method of health care delivery, provide health care screening, education, and referral services to person typically underserved in the traditional health care delivery system. Primary care nursing centers were surveyed to determine to what extent they provide oral health screening, education, and referral services for clients, and to identify factors that discourage and encourage the integration of these services. Nurses from 158 primary care nursing centers in the United States made up the study population. Data were collected using a self-administered questionnaire. Data from 59 primary care nursing centers were analyzed using frequency distributions and measures of central tendency. Almost half of the responding nurses at primary care nursing centers "almost always" screen their clients for gum infections (49%) and oral lesions (48%). Fewer teach their clients how to perform oral cancer self-examinations (20%); or educate them regarding use of athletic mouth protectors (15%), the effects of xerostomia (19%), and the benefits of fluoride (38%). The majority do not always refer clients needing treatment for dental decay (55%), gum infections (61%), missing teeth (80%), oral lesions (67%), oral pain (64%), or oral trauma (65%). Lack of referral sources (64%) and unavailability of oral health professionals to provide on site basic oral health services (63%) were the leading factors that discourage the integration of oral health services in the centers. An appreciation for the benefits of oral health (73%) and a knowledgeable clinician to perform oral health services (68%) were the leading factors that encourage the integration of oral health services into primary care nursing centers. These data could be useful in planning, implementing, and evaluating more effective and efficient methods for channeling basic oral health services to the public. The data provide support for the collaborative efforts by dental hygienists and nurses to expand oral health services beyond the confines of the current dental care delivery system.

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Accession: 046877427

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PMID: 10634121

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