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J Dent Educ. 2003 Aug;67(8):876-85.

Prevention of early childhood caries in North Carolina medical practices: implications for research and practice.

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Department of Health Policy and Administration, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 27599-7411, USA.


Early childhood caries is a significant public health problem in low-income children, with important negative consequences for the child and the family. The purpose of this paper is to describe the development, implementation, and preliminary outcomes of preventive dentistry programs in North Carolina that target low-income children from birth to thirty-five months of age. The focus is on Into the Mouths of Babes, a statewide program in which pediatricians, family physicians, and providers in community health clinics are reimbursed by Medicaid to provide preventive dental services for children (risk assessment, screening, referral, fluoride varnish application) and caregivers (counseling). The provider intervention includes continuing medical education lectures and interactive sessions, practice guidelines for the patient interventions, case-based problems, practical strategies for implementation, a toolkit with resource materials, and follow-up training. In the first two years of the statewide program, 1,595 medical providers have been trained. The number of providers billing for these services has steadily increased, and by the last quarter of 2002, the number of visits in which preventive dental services were provided in medical offices reached 10,875. A total of 38,056 preventive dental visits occurred in medical offices in 2002. By the end of 2002, only sixteen of the state's one hundred counties had no pediatrician, family physician, or local health department participating. The preliminary results from this program demonstrate that nondental professionals can integrate preventive dental services into their practices. The program has increased access to preventive dental services for young Medicaid children whose access to dentists is restricted. Assessments of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of both the provider and patient interventions are under way.

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