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A new curriculum for oral-systemic health education for non-dental healthcare providers


Oral-Systemic Health Education for Non-Dental Healthcare Providers Curriculum Puts Manitoba at the Forefront of Medical Education in Oral Health


The Oral-Systemic Health Education for Non-Dental Healthcare Providers Curriculum is evidence-based interprofessionally vetted and written by the world’s leading authorities in oral health. The first course will be available online at www.oralhealthed.com, which is expected to launch in June 2014.

The University of Manitoba is offering non-dental healthcare providers (HCPs) comprehensive, evidence-based peer review education in oral health to help them assess, refer and co-manage high-risk populations with limited access to dental care. The Oral-Systemic Health Education for Non-Dental Healthcare Providers curriculum bridges the gap between medicine and dentistry, and is the first of its kind in health science education.

The innovative online continuing education curriculum is giving non-dental HCPs, such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, rehabilitation therapists, and social workers, the tools they need to identify and refer acute oral health diseases.

“The patient-centred curriculum offers valuable oral health training in areas such as oropharyngeal cancer, caries detection in children, and periodontal disease,” says Dr. Anthony Iacopino, Dean of dentistry. “We are pleased to be able to take on a leadership role in this next generation of health care in Canada. It will ultimately result in better care for those at risk.”

The multimedia, online curriculum consists of 25 peer-reviewed learning modules that focus on health outcomes relevant to high-risk populations. Modules currently in production will teach non-dental HCPs screening techniques for pediatric, geriatric and immunocompromised patients in settings outside of a dental clinic. Future topics include the relationship of periodontal disease to systemic diseases and conditions, the bidirectional relationship between nutritional and oral health, and sustaining oral health of special needs patients.

In addition to teaching non-dental HCPs how to recognize clinical manifestations of oral diseases and conditions, the Curriculum offers recommendations for supportive care of patients with acute dental conditions who have limited access to dentists and dental hygienists.

“The growing body of evidence of the interrelationships between oral and overall health is a knowledge base that can no longer be ignored,” says Casey Hein, Director of Education, International Centre for Oral-Systemic Health, Faculty of Dentistry, and Director of Interprofessional Continuing Development, Faculty of Medicine.

“The vision for the Curriculum was largely inspired by a growing appreciation of the need to address patient care systemically and holistically. Compelling evidence of the significance of interrelationships between oral and systemic health, along with calls for curriculum reform in undergraduate education of non-dental HCPs, led to the development of this innovative project,” Hein says, adding the project has been funded by industry and the Manitoba Government.

With an emphasis on interprofessional, collaborative care of patients at risk for diseases and conditions related to the oral cavity, the Curriculum addresses oral-systemic health as a foundational base of knowledge for all healthcare practitioners.

The need for such training has been validated by a United Health Care Medical-Dental Integration Study released last year, which shows that reduction of oral inflammation through basic prophylaxis and treatment of periodontal disease significantly reduced comorbidities, as well as medical and pharmacy costs for individuals with chronic medical conditions.1

“Oral cancer in adults, the sixth-most common malignancy in the world, and the travesties of life-altering oral diseases in children and adolescents are two areas of oral-systemic science that compel healthcare and human services providers from all disciplines to rethink patient care, and begin to collaborate with colleagues outside their own profession,” Hein says. “With the appropriate education and training in oral health, non-dental HCPs could impact the epidemiologic trends in serious and often debilitating oral diseases and conditions.”

In February the University of Manitoba held a one-day symposium entitled Oral-Systemic Health Day. The event highlighted the content contained in the first two modules of the Curriculum. The internationally renowned presenters, Dr. Susan Müller of Emory University and Dr. Travis Nelson of the University of Washington, respectively authored the first two modules in the Curriculum—“Empowering Physicians, Nurses and Other Non-Dental Healthcare Providers in the Prevention and Early Detection of Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer” and “Empowering Physicians, Nurses and Other Non-Dental Healthcare Providers in the Oral Health of Children and Adolescents”. Oral-Systemic Health Day attracted more than 200 Manitoba-based HCPs.


  1. United Healthcare Services Inc. Medical Dental Integration Study. Hartford, Connecticut; 2013.


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