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AAPD research: Don't delay early dental visit

August 13, 2018

By Michelle Manchir

There may be risk factors in a child's medical record that are helpful for predicting cavities risk, according to research released in August by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

The research, which is part of a series of studies launched in 2014 aimed at exploring pediatric medical providers' perceptions and practices surrounding oral health, produced a predictive model "that suggests the odds of a child having tooth decay at the first dental visit more than doubles for every year of increased age," according to a news release about the study.

A child's first dental visit should take place after the first tooth appears, but no later than his or her first birthday, according to the ADA's consumer website, MouthHealthy.org.

"By delaying the first dental visit, parents take an unnecessary gamble on their child's oral health," said Dr. Paul Casamassimo, chief policy officer of the AAPD's oral health research and policy center and a member of the ADA's Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention.

According to the research, primary care providers can use five variables to assess the odds of future or present tooth decay starting at the 18-month well child visit. The variables include the age of the child, history of a preventive dental visit, duration of breastfeeding, no-show rate to appointments and preferred spoken language.

This predictive model may help "health care providers identify children at low, moderate and high risk of future cavities," without taking time from other important health concerns, according to the report.

Furthermore, using this checklist of variables consistently "may facilitate a consistent integration of oral health intervention into well-child visits," said Dr. Casamassimo.

"Knowing a toddler is at risk for cavities based on information routinely gathered from the well-child visits has the potential to engage health care providers in oral health and encourage needed referrals for dental care," Dr. Casamassimo said.

The full report of this study, including an example of how the model could be adapted into practice workflow, can be found on the AAPD website, www.AAPD.org.