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Children with early preventive care visits from dentists were more likely to have subsequent dental care (Photograph: Doors/Shutterstock)
0 Comments Mar 10, 2017 | News Americas

Early preventive dental care may not reduce caries risk

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala., USA: There is a recommendation for children to have a dental visit by 6 months of age, but there is insufficient evidence of improved outcomes or whether primary care providers can deliver it. A study conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health investigated whether early preventive dental care reduces caries-related treatment and whether provider matters. It found that children who received early preventive care visits from dentists were more likely to have subsequent dental care, including caries-related treatment, and greater expenditures than children without preventive dental care.

The study included 19,658 children aged 0–3, from low-income families, of whom almost 26 percent received preventive dental care before their second birthday from a dentist or a primary care provider, while the rest did not. The data was obtained from the Alabama Medicaid agency and adjusted for demographics, access to care and general health service use.

The results indicate that there was no evidence that early preventive dental care reduced the risk of dental caries, regardless of the provider. Compared with matched children without early preventive dental care, children with such care from a dentist more frequently had a subsequent caries-related treatment (20.6 percent vs. 11.3 percent), a higher rate of visits and greater dental expenditure.

Dentist-delivered preventive dental care was associated with an increase in the expected number of caries-related treatment visits and associated expenditures. No such link was found for preventive dental care by a primary care provider. “This study highlights the need for continued careful evaluation of the evidence basis for clinical recommendations,” said Dr. Justin Blackburn, assistant professor at the School of Public Health.

“Additional research among other populations and beyond administrative data may be necessary to elucidate the true effects of early preventive dental care,” the study authors concluded.The study did not include information regarding oral health behaviors, like toothbrushing, or other benefits of preventive dental care.

The study, titled “Outcomes associated with early preventive dental care among Medicaid-enrolled children in Alabama,” was published online on Feb. 27 in the JAMA Pediatrics journal.

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