Open Access Open Badges Research article

Care coordination among pediatricians and dentists: a cross-sectional study of opinions of North Carolina dentists

Rocio B Quinonez1*, Ashley M Kranz2, Marshall Long3 and R Gary Rozier4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pediatric Dentistry and Pediatrics, Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

2 Department of Dental Research, School of Dentistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

3 Private Practice, Charlotte, NC, USA

4 Department of Health Policy and Management, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

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BMC Oral Health 2014, 14:33  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-14-33

Published: 7 April 2014



Care coordination between physicians and dentists remains a challenge. This study of dentists providing pediatric dental care examined their opinions about physicians’ role in oral health and identified factors associated with these opinions.


North Carolina general and pediatric dentists were surveyed on their opinions of how physicians should proceed after caries risk assessment and evaluation of an 18-month-old, low risk child. We estimated two multinomial logistic regression models to examine dentists’ responses to the scenario under the circumstances of an adequate and a limited dental workforce.


Among 376 dentists, 52% of dentists indicated physicians should immediately refer this child to a dental home with an adequate dental workforce. With a limited workforce, 34% recommended immediate referral. Regression analysis indicated that with an adequate workforce guideline awareness was associated with a significantly lower relative risk of dentists’ recommending the child remain in the medical home than immediate referral.


Dentists’ opinions and professional guidelines on how physicians should promote early childhood oral health differ and warrant strategies to address such inconsistencies. Without consistent guidelines and their application, there is a missed opportunity to influence provider opinions to improve access to dental care.

Care coordination; Guidelines; Infant oral health care; Dental workforce; Early childhood caries; Preventive dental services