Background: Limited evidence exists to inform best practice approaches to implement school-based dental screening to address child retention via referral for dental services. This research tested the null hypothesis that a targeted school-based dental check-up program (intervention) has a 75% child retention rate for public dental care (H0 = 0.75).
Methods: A prospective non-randomised controlled trial was conducted with a convenience sampling approach in metropolitan Melbourne, Australia. Children in the intervention group were recruited from two preschools and two primary schools from a low socioeconomic area. Children in the standard care group were recruited from the local public dental service. Statistical analysis was performed using Stata IC Version 12.
Results: Children in the intervention (45%) were significantly less likely to have never had a dental check-up compared to standard care (20%) (p < 0.001). There was no significant difference for the child retention rate for the intervention group when compared against the null hypothesis (p = 0.954). The total society costs were AU$754.7 and AU$612.2 for the intervention and standard care groups, respectively (p = 0.049).
Conclusions: This validation study provides evidence that a targeted school-based dental check-up program can achieve a 75% child retention rate and should be considered for program expansion.
Keywords: costs and cost analysis; dental care for children; oral health; preventive health services; school health services.