Oral Health and Pediatricians

With few general dentists treating children under age four, pediatricians have an important role in performing dental screenings of young children and educating their families about preventive oral health. This national survey examined pediatricians’ attitudes and practices of oral health for children ages 0 to 3 years old. While 90 percent of pediatricians say they should examine their patients’ teeth and educate families about oral health and preventive care, only 54 percent responded doing this regularly.

Among the reasons cited for the discrepancy in actual practice:

  • Lack of oral health training either in medical school or afterwards.
  • Inadequate time during office visits to provide oral health care.
  • Inability to bill separately for oral health assessments or counseling.

Young patients face other barriers to obtaining professional dental care. The major one cited is the lack of dentists who accept Medicaid or SCHIP patients.

The authors suggest that dentists and pediatricians work together to improve the quality of preventive and oral health care available to their patients. Changes to the U.S. health care financing and insurance structure would further assure that all children have access to dental care.