The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry 

Appropriate Timing of Dental Services and Preventive Dentistry
Essential to the Optimal Oral Health of Children

Lack of appropriate information on preventive dentistry and dental services impedes the goal of optimal oral health standards for all US children. In a study published in the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s (AAPD) journal, Pediatric Dentistry, researchers evaluated the factors associated with age-appropriate dental care and preventive dentistry among preschool-aged children in Delaware.

A child health questionnaire was sent to a random sample of Delaware caregivers with preschool-aged children. Survey questions were selected and modified from the National Center for Health Statistics questionnaires to ensure a comprehensive report of demographic, financial, access/barriers to care, and health status, beliefs, attitudes, and behavior information.

This study reported a 68% response rate. According to analyzed research, the study indicated 4% of children 12 months or younger had never been to a dentist, whereas 3% of children between 12 and 24 months and 20% of children 24 months or older had been to the dentist. For all of the children in this study, only 11% had been to the dentist. Of the caregivers who reported that their child had been to the dentist, 14% indicated the child’s first visit occurred on or before the child’s first year and less than half (49%) reported before the second year. Data showed that the maternal age/education was not a significant association with having a dental visit. This study also did not show health coverage as being a factor with regular dental visits.

One of the most significant sources of information on oral health for caregivers is a child’s medical health provider. No difference in dental visits was found from information provided by a physician or a nurse. However, the study was unable to qualify what information was provided on oral health. The AAPD recommends that a child have an oral health examination within six months of the first tooth’s eruption, or by one year of age. Providing caregivers with oral hygiene information, as well as appropriate fluoride supplementation, is critical for a child’s dentition. The study also indicated that a more unified approach to dental health assessments by various organizations should decrease confusion about oral hygiene and preventive dentistry for caregivers and health providers alike.

Pediatric Dentistry is the bimonthly didactic publication of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Pediatric dentists are primary care providers who also provide comprehensive treatment for infants, children, adolescents, and patients with special health care needs.

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Posted on with permission from AAPD.