Objectives: Primary care providers (e.g., family physicians, pediatricians, registered nurses, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners) could play a pivotal role in the provision of preventive services, especially for very young children (younger than 3 years old) and population groups with limited access to dental care. Given the current problems with access to dental care among low-income Americans, we contend there is a need to involve nondental primary health care providers in screening for and preventing oral health problems. The objective of this overview is to present findings from systematic reviews on the efficacy of continuing medical education, printed educational material, academic outreach, reminders, and local opinion leaders on the adoption of new knowledge and practices by primary care providers.
Methods: A search was conducted using the Cochrane Library and MEDLINE. The search aimed to locate systematic reviews published between January 1988 and March 2003. Two researchers independently extracted data and assessed study quality using a modified version of the QUOROM statement.
Results: Eleven systematic reviews were included in this overview. The evidence from the included systematic reviews showed that formal continuing medical education (CME) and distributing educational materials did not effectively change primary care providers' behaviors. There are effective interventions available to increase knowledge and change behaviors of primary care providers, such as small group discussion, interactive workshops, educational outreach visits, and reminders.
Conclusion: There is a limited knowledge base on the efficacy of the selected interventions on oral health screening by primary care providers. Considering the potential role of primary care providers in improving oral health of underserved populations, this research area should receive more attention.