Advanced Education, Faculty and Staff, Pediatric Dentistry

Byrd, Quinonez Investigate Oral Health Counseling

Gentry Byrd, DDS and Rocio Quinonez, DMD, MS, MPH, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry are co-authors of a paper that investigates prenatal oral health counseling by primary care physicians.

This is the first study to provide national estimates and predictors of primary care providers prenatal oral health counseling using the data from the 2013 Survey of Primary Care Physicians on Oral Health by the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ (US DHHS) Office of Women’s Health.

Their study surveyed more than 350 primary care physicians across the country who treat pregnant women. The authors found that while many primary care physicians addressed prenatal oral health in the form of counseling, and agreed that preventive dental care is very important, less than half of the respondents felt prepared to identify oral health issues and counsel pregnant patients on the importance of oral health.

This illustrates the disconnections between prenatal oral health practice guidelines and primary care physician workforce preparedness to address oral health issues.

However, their findings indicated promising results. Most primary care physicians acknowledged their role in oral health and that they should be able to identify oral health issues in adult patients. The authors’ research also supported the results of a recent national survey which found a general lack of primary care physician training in oral health, especially in association with counseling pregnant women. The authors found that primary care physicians who received oral health continuing education had a higher likelihood of counseling pregnant women on oral health than those who did not.

This research illustrates the growing importance of interprofessional collaboration between health care professions, with a particular focus on oral health, as the environment of health care delivery continues to change. Oral health content has increased in medical school education within the last decade. For instance, Smiles for Life, a national oral health curriculum, was designed to facilitate the integration of oral health into primary care provider training.

The authors address areas of future research, such as the quality of oral health counseling given by primary care providers and physicians, and barriers to addressing prenatal oral health. New studies utilizing their findings may be done to facilitate strategy development to promote evidence based practice, with more work needed to assure equitable and quality prenatal care.

Other collaborators on the paper include Kimon Divaris, DDS, PhD, and Ceib Phillips, DDS, MPH, PhD, from the School of Dentistry; Gary Rozier, DDS, MPH, from the Gillings School of Public Health; and Marian Mehegan and Ledia Martinez from the US DHHS Office on Women’s Health.

This paper was selected for publication in the Maternal and Child Health Journal. To read the full paper, click here.