Dental Problems in Primary Care

Am Fam Physician. 2018 Dec 1;98(11):654-660.


Oral health directly affects overall health and quality of life. More Americans lack dental insurance than medical insurance. Patients with poor oral health are more likely to have respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and diabetes mellitus. Early childhood caries is the most common chronic condition in American children. Certain illicit and prescription drugs increase the risk of enamel erosion and caries formation in adults. Incision and drainage is the treatment of choice for dental abscess. Risk factors for periodontal disease include smoking, diabetes, human immunodeficiency virus infection, use of certain medications, and genetic susceptibility. Patients with gingivitis typically present with swollen, erythematous gum tissue that bleeds easily with brushing or flossing. One in three children will have an injury to the primary teeth, and one in five 12-year-old children will have an injury to the permanent teeth. All dental fractures should be evaluated with imaging and managed in conjunction with a dental professional. Immediate reimplantation is the preferred treatment for avulsed permanent teeth. Primary care clinicians are well positioned to reduce rates of oral disease. Family physicians can incorporate oral health into routine practice through counseling about diet, oral hygiene, smoking cessation, and fluoride supplementation; application of fluoride varnish; and screening for dental disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Oral Health*
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Tooth Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Tooth Diseases* / therapy