Primary Care Physician Roles in Health Centers with Oral Health Care Units

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Integrating oral health care and primary care is a priority for improving population health. Primary care physicians (PCP) are filling expanded roles within oral health care to secure strong overall health for their patients.


This comparative case study examines the roles of PCPs at 5 federally qualified health centers that have integrated oral health care and primary care. Administrative data were obtained directly from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Key informant interviews were performed with administrators and clinical care team members at each of the health centers. Data were reviewed by 2 experts in oral health to identify emerging roles for physicians.


PPCPs' roles in health centers' integration models vary, but 3 distinct roles emerged: (1) the physician as a champion, (2) the physician as a collaborator, and (3) the physician as a member of an interprofessional team. In addition, providing physicians with the necessary training to identify oral health issues was critical to preparing physicians to take on expanded roles in integrated health care delivery models.


Regardless of the roles that they play, family physicians can contribute a great deal to the success of integration models.

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