Integrating Oral & Physical Health: Part 5

First developed in 2005 by the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Group on Oral Health, Smiles for Life offers a free, eight-part Continuing Education series aimed at helping medical providers learn more about oral health and disease. All courses are available through the Smiles for Life website, allowing individual providers to learn on their own time and at their own pace. Free Continuing Education (CE) credit is also available. 

“As clinicians we are lifelong learners. Addressing gaps in knowledge is important,” said Kevin Ewanchyna, M.D., and chief medical officer for Samaritan Health Plans. “Smiles for Life can help fill any gaps that occur when it comes to better understanding oral health and its interactions with systemic health overall.”

Smiles for Life Curriculum

The curriculum is made up of eight courses:
  • Course 1: The Relationship of Oral to Systemic Health
  • Course 2: Child Oral Health
  • Course 3: Adult Oral Health
  • Course 4: Acute Dental Problems
  • Course 5: Oral Health & the Pregnant Patient
  • Course 6: Caries Risk Assessment, Fluoride Varnish & Counseling
  • Course 7: The Oral Examination
  • Course 8: Geriatric Oral Health

While a more complete understanding of oral health will be gained by completing the entire curriculum, providers may take courses individually based on their interests or needs without completing all eight courses.

For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics reviewed and approved two courses—Courses Two and Six— to qualify for CE credits. Another example is that many patient’s oral health needs do not cleanly fall under one course. So when treating a pregnant patient it may be beneficial to complete Courses One, Five and Seven.

Additional Resources

In addition to its oral health curriculum, Smiles for Life also offers a variety of resources including printable pocket cards and links to other educational website. Available pocket cards include:
  • Child Oral Health: Summarizes key knowledge areas in child oral health and includes information on counseling at well child visits, a tooth eruption chart, and fluoride prescribing guidelines.
  • Acute Dental Problems: Summarizes key knowledge involving dental emergencies and includes information on the differential diagnosis, management and prevention of oral pain and trauma.
  • Adult Oral Health: Summarizes key knowledge areas in adult oral health and includes recommendations for the prevention of caries and periodontal disease, treatment for xerostomia and common denture problems, and guidelines for antibiotic prophylaxis and anticoagulation management prior to oral procedures.
  • Prenatal: Summarizes key knowledge involving dental care for pregnant patients.

Endorsements & Recognition

Smiles for Life has received endorsements and recognition from both medical and dental professional organizations such as the: American Association of Public Health Dentistry, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, American Dental Association, National Association of School Nurses, American College of Nurse-Midwives, America’s Pediatric Dentists, Physician Assistant Education Association, National Association of Community Health Centers, American Association of Colleges for Osteopathic Medicine, and American Academy of Pediatrics.

If you are interested in learning more about Smiles for Life, please visit their website at If you would like more information about integrating oral health programs and services in your clinic, please contact us and let us know you would like to be connected with one of our dental coordinators. 

Next Issue: Screenings & Dental Referrals

Next month, we will discuss screenings and dental referrals, as we continue to explore how oral and physical health are related and the opportunities primary care clinics have to integrate and coordinate dental services. 

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