About Us

The National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health (NIIOH) has evolved out of the work done by participants who attended one of the annual Symposia on Oral Health and Primary Care (2008 - 2017).  Here interprofessional dialogue is facilitated among primary care clinicians, dentists and funders.  Relationships are developed and generative thinking is done about strategies, programs and products that will enable NIIOH to achieve its desired impact.  The Smiles for Life curriculum, an interprfessional national curriculum, developed by and for primary care clinicians with endorsements from multiple medical professional organizations is an example of the result of NIIOH activities.  Initiative activities are made possible as a result of funding from the DentaQuest Foundation and the Washington Dental Service Foundation and the Connecticut Health Foundation.

The theory of change underpinning the activities of the National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health is that if primary care clinicians learn about how to protect and promote oral health and prevent dental disease as part of their medical education and training experience, they would, as practitioners, be in a position to: counsel patients about their role in protecting their oral health, spot the early signs of disease, reverse and/or arrest the disease process and refer patients needing dental treatment to a dentist.  To this end, The National Interprofessional Initiative invests in:

  • development of common oral health curriculum and maintenance of a central website: www.smilesforlifeoralhealth.org
  • development of a network of oral health champions who work to integrate oral health into professional education programs of their professions and their educational institutions
  • efforts to broaden the systems that impact health professional education and practice to incorporate oral health including:
    • academic program accreditation
    • professional licensing
    • provider reimbursement
    • continuing education
  • undertakings that use oral health content as a vehicle for teaching interprofessional competencies

NIIOH Partners

(click a heading to expand)


The Society for Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) Group on Oral Health has done a masterful job of translating complex oral health expertise into messages that primary care clinicians need to know. In 2010, the STFM Group on Oral Health completed the third edition of the Smiles for Life curriculum, the most comprehensive and widely used oral health curriculum designed for primary care clinicians. This version is a web-based, interactive educational tool for individual learners and educators alike. The third edition of Smiles for Life includes clinical cases for individual and group education, downloadable modules, instructional videos, and patient education materials. Each module has a test feature – providing immediate feedback for users as well as a certificate of completion for those who successfully complete the tests.

American Academy of Family Physicians
Society of Teachers of Family Medicine
American Academy of Pediatrics
Smiles for Life

Physician Assistants

Participation in the 2009 Symposium on Oral Health and Primary Care inspired representatives from the Physician Assistant profession to become involved in oral health. PA oral health “champion” Anita Glicken engaged leaders of the American Academy of PA, the PA Educational Association, the National Commission on Certification of PA, and the PA Accreditation Review Commission – the four professional organizations which govern how the PA profession operates – to attend the 2010 PA Leadership Summit on Oral Health and learn from representatives from medicine, dentistry, and philanthropy. 

After the symposium, the PA organizations developed action plans designed to bring oral health into the learning and practice of physician assistants. The PA leaders enthusiastically embraced the Smiles for LIfe curriculum as a useful tool and added three new resources which are now available to all professions:

In 2011, the PA profession will feature oral health as part of the annual AAPA meeting, sponsor 5 state level chapter lectures on oral health, sponsor a faculty development workshop and  fund seed grants to faculty who will: implement the Smiles for Life curriculum, evaluate results and publish findings in professional PA journals. In addition, PA leaders and leaders from medicine, dentistry and philanthropy  will reconvene in July at a 2011 PA Leadership Summit on Oral Health.

American Academy of Physician Assistants
Physician Assistant Education Association
National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants
Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant
University of Colorado Physician Assistant Program


Participation in the 2009 and 2010 Symposia on Oral Health and Primary Care inspired Donna Shelley and Judith Haber of the New York University College of Nursing to convene leaders of professional nursing organizations in a 2011 Oral Health Summit and to pilot integration of the Smiles for Life curriculum in the undergraduate and graduate education programs at the NYU College of Nursing as well as in the NYU Nurse Faculty Practice. 

New York University College of Nursing