Many Sharewood patients are unaware that they have dental problems, don’t know the next step in seeking help, or never learned prevention strategies. Our primary objective is to assess the patient’s oral health (including a head and neck exam) and refer them to get proper care. We emphasize patient education, assess CAMBRA and urgency of care scores for every patient, and apply topical fluoride when indicated. Effective communication is essential to patient care.
A majority of our patients speak limited English, so we must use every resource to transmit our message, whether by educating the patient through a family member or interpreter, or by demonstrating oral hygiene techniques on a typodont. Often, a bit of creativity, patience, and persistence is necessary.
Sharewood Clinic Volunteers (L to R) Monica Moitoso, Nelly Shteynberg, Diane Asmar, Dr. John Morgan, Elizabeth Moss, Dr. David Leader, Emma Zimmerman, Jason Safer, and Marissa Schwartz.
I also learned that we extend our influence as dentists even further through interprofessional education: training other healthcare professionals to help screen for oral disease. With medical and dental students working together, interprofessionalism thrives at Sharewood. Every patient gets a basic workup of vitals and blood pressure regardless of their chief complaint. Two years ago, I thought, “Shouldn’t all patients receive a basic oral health screening as well?” Prevention of oral disease is essential to overall health, not just dental care. I developed a screening form to assess the need for dental care for all patients, not just those who requested dental services. We purchased a rolling cart with dental supplies, and now visit the medical students’ exam rooms to screen every consenting patient.
Expanded patient screening has paid off. Recently, three siblings from China presented to the medical clinic for physical exams, and all had severe caries. The parents were unaware that their children had urgent dental issues, and we informed them of the situation and recommended dental treatment as soon as possible. With the help of faculty, I organized a lecture and hands on training led by a physician for medical and dental students to learn about dental screening and fluoride application. Hopefully when these medical students become practicing physicians, they will apply topical fluoride to prevent pediatric dental issues, and help their patients to find a dental home.
As interprofessional education at Sharewood grows, our dental team receives more referrals and helps more patients. A medical student recently consulted with us on a patient with diabetes who we referred for much needed treatment for periodontal disease. I believe Sharewood can serve as a model for the future of the healthcare profession: dentists and physicians working together for the benefit of the patient. It is essential that we all emphasize prevention of oral disease through screening and education.