AAPHD Policy Statement on Primary Care
Adopted by the assembly of members of AAPHD October 7, 1995
J Pub Health Dent 1996; 56(2):102.

The American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPHD) reaffirms that "oral health is an integral part of total health, and oral health care is an integral part of comprehensive health care, including primary care." Oral diseases are among the most common in the United States, affecting both children and adults. Oral diseases profoundly influence general health and quality of life, including speaking, eating, learning, working, and other functions. Primary oral health care services are directed toward promoting health and preventing and managing oral diseases and conditions. By addressing the vast majority of the oral health problems present in the community, oral health professionals provide the foundation for an effective and efficient oral health care system.

Oral health care is an integral part of primary care because:

1. The mouth is part of the body, and oral pain, disease, and disability should be prevented and/or treated. Many people are at risk of oral diseases, and risk continues through a lifetime.
2. Oral health professionals develop sustained partnerships with patients and families with the mutual expectation of continuation over time.
3. Oral health professionals are accountable for the delivery of primary health services for the most common oral problems, including screening, monitoring, and providing preventive, counseling, and treatment services.
4. By tradition and law, many of the essential health care services to maintain oral health are only provided by oral health professionals. These clinicians are uniquely qualified to prevent, treat, and manage diseases and conditions of the oral cavity, have a recognized scientific knowledge base, and have the statutory authority to direct the delivery of personal health services to patients.

The AAPHD believes that primary care clinicians should be identified by skills needed to address patient and community needs rather than by clinicians' credentials. Oral health professionals fulfill the expectation of primary health care by ensuring coordinated, appropriate, and comprehensive personal and community-based services with an understanding of the patient's living conditions, family dynamics, and cultural background.

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