In June of 2016, the IOHA selected a new long-term initiative—to lead Idaho’s efforts to integrate oral health integration into the primary care setting. With key partners from across the state, the IOHA is stewarding collaborative efforts to bring oral health preventive practices and screenings into primary care settings to better serve a patient’s whole health. By reinforcing the fact that oral health is important to a person’s whole health, we hope to encourage strengthened bonds between the dental community and medical community across the state and work toward healthier Idahoans.

Our interest in this national movement has been reinforced by our research of integration activities in other states and through our participation in the Idaho Healthcare Coalition (IHC), the Statewide Healthcare Innovation Plan (SHIP), and the Health Transformation Council of Idaho (HTCI). We are also inspired by our colleagues at the Idaho Primary Care Association (IPCA) who are working hard on oral health integration into Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) in Idaho.

In 2016, we established two ad hoc board committees that: 1) address efforts to educate our provider communities, and 2) invent an eventual statewide bi-directional medical-dental referral network that compliments the efforts of the Idaho Smiles Medicaid Referral system managed by MCNA. In 2017, we partnered with the St. Luke’s Children’s Ambulatory Quality Improvement department (formerly the Idaho Health and Wellness Collaborative for Children (IHAWCC)) who led an oral health learning collaborative in 2017. Sixteen practices, across six Idaho counties engaged in the opportunity, and in total, 54 providers participated in quality improvement projects that brought oral health assessment work into their practices. (Project Summary listed below.)

In 2018, the IOHA supported a pilot project that was undertaken in partnership with Nampa Smiles, Delta Dental of Idaho, the Southwest Health Collaborative, and the Central Health Collaborative. The Primary Care Coordinator Summer 2018 Pilot was created to test ideas that could support enhanced connections between dental services and medical services. (White Paper listed below.)

In 2019-2020, the IOHA tested its vision for a managed statewide bi-directional closed-loop referral system between medical and dental providers. The concept was well-received and, in 2021, the IOHA was awarded competitive grants from the Dental Trade Alliance and Patterson Dental Foundation to expand to a pilot phase with a larger geographic footprint of providers.

In 2021, the IOHA partnered with MCNA, the IOHP, and the Idaho Community Health Center Association to participate in a HRSA sponsored national effort to increase the application of fluoride varnish for children in both dental and medical settings. These Idaho efforts strongly supported our vision for medical-dental collaboration. This work will lead to the creation of a standardized fluoride varnish training program for medical providers and is expected to be available in 2024.

Over the next several years, we will continue our research, seek vast and varied input, steward relationships and partnerships, and build the foundation needed to lead the implementation of oral health integration into primary care settings in Idaho.