Objective: Pediatricians have regular opportunities to perform screening dental examinations on young children and to educate families on preventive oral health. We sought to assess pediatricians' current attitudes and practices related to oral health of children 0-3 years old.
Methods: A Periodic Survey of Fellows, focused on oral health in pediatricians' office settings, was sent to 1618 postresidency fellows of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Results: The response rate was 68%. More than 90% of pediatricians said that they should examine their patients' teeth for caries and educate families about preventive oral health. However, in practice, only 54% of pediatricians reported examining the teeth of more than half of their 0-3-year-old patients. Four percent of pediatricians regularly apply fluoride varnish. The most common barrier to participation in oral health-related activities in their practices was lack of training, which was cited by 41%. Less than 25% of pediatricians had received oral health education in medical school, residency, or continuing education. Most pediatricians (74%) reported that availability of dentists who accept Medicaid posed a moderate to severe barrier for 0-3-year-old Medicaid-insured patients to obtain dental care.
Conclusions: Pediatricians see it within their purview to educate families about preventive oral health and to assess for dental caries. However, many pediatricians reported barriers to fully implementing preventive oral health activities into their practices. Pediatricians and dentists need to work together to improve the quality of preventive oral health care available to all young children.