The AAFP National Research Network (AAFP NRN) is recruiting family physician practices for a study on oral health care and screening.
According to AAFP NRN Research Director Kim Kimminau, Ph.D., the study -- a joint venture of the AAFP, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry -- is hoping to enlist family medicine practices throughout the United States that provide some level of oral health care to their young patients.
"We are looking for practices that have embraced the provision of oral health care that's allowable through their scope of practice and state laws," she said. "That includes procedures such as applying fluoride varnish to children's teeth."
Kimminau, who is also an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, said the study is seeking practices that provide preventive care services and conduct oral screenings to check for problems such as abscesses and discolored teeth in a patient population that includes infants to teenagers.
"We want to look at those family physicians who are working on oral health as part of their comprehensive care, specifically for infants and children," she said. "These practices are not going to make a diagnosis of dental caries or disease, as they leave that to dental professionals, but it is important to know if they are reviewing that as part of their care and if they can then link those families up to primary dental care services in the community."
The goal of the study, which will include focus groups and site visits, is to learn how practices can best provide oral health care as part of the process of providing overall primary care to children, Kimminau said.
"From there, we can identify both the barriers and the facilitators that exist in offering oral health care," she said. "For example, at a site visit, we are interested in seeing when the child actually gets the fluoride varnish treatment. Does it happen when they are roomed or maybe when they get their immunizations? We would like to get a better idea of where it happens and who on the clinical team provides the care."
Kimminau said the researchers and partners are particularly interested in defining the time allocation and staffing that are required to provide oral preventive services and screening.
"We want to know what (successful practices) did to tweak their workflows or staff education on oral health in order to provide this care to the children they see in their practice," she said. "We want to learn how they did it and pass that information along so it's not quite as overwhelming or daunting to the practices that don't currently do it, and we believe we can actually lead (practices that aren't offering oral screening) to accommodating this care.
"Maybe it's a matter of how you set up your billing or maybe it's a matter of having a nurse champion who takes it on as an additional duty and, before he or she gives an immunization, talks to the parents about oral health and puts on the fluoride varnish.
"We need to learn the best ways to do it from these successful practices and share that with others."
To learn more about or enroll in the study, contact Kimminau via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (800) 274-2237, Ext. 3184.
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