The importance of preventive dental visits from a young age: systematic review and current perspectives
Vaishnavi Bhaskar,1 Kathleen A McGraw,2 Kimon Divaris3
1Department of Health Policy and Management, Gillings School of Global Public Health, 2Health Sciences Library, 3Department of Pediatric Dentistry, School of Dentistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Background: Dental caries, the most common childhood chronic disease, disproportionately affects vulnerable parts of the population and confers substantial impacts to children, families, and health systems. Because efforts directed toward oral health promotion and disease prevention are fundamentally superior to dental rehabilitation secondary to disease development, early preventive dental visits (EPDVs) are widely advocated by professional and academic stakeholders. The aim of this comprehensive review was to critically review and summarize available evidence regarding the effectiveness of EPDVs in improving children's oral health outcomes.
Materials and methods: A systematic literature search of the PubMed and Embase electronic databases was undertaken to identify peer-reviewed publications investigating the effectiveness of EPDVs on oral health outcomes, including clinical, behavioral, and cost end points up to October 30, 2013. Outcomes of the identified studies were abstracted and summarized independently by two investigators.
Results: Four manuscripts met the inclusion criteria and were included in the review. All studies were conducted in the US and employed a retrospective cohort study design using public insurance-claims data, whereas one study matched claims files with kindergarten state dental surveillance data. That study found no benefit of EPDVs in future clinically determined dental caries levels in kindergarten. The other three studies found mixed support for an association of EPDVs with subsequent more preventive and fewer nonpreventive visits and lower nonpreventive service-related expenditures. Selection bias and a problem-driven dental care-seeking pattern were frequently articulated themes in the reviewed studies.
Conclusion: The currently available evidence base supporting the effectiveness of EPDVs and the year 1 first dental visit recommendation is weak, and more research is warranted. The benefits of EPDVs before the age of 3 years are evident among children at high risk or with existing dental disease. However, EPDVs may be associated with reduced restorative dental care visits and related expenditures during the first years of life.
Keywords: prevention, children, dental visits, anticipatory guidance, dental home, caries
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