Preventive dental health care experiences of preschool-age children with special health care needs

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Purpose:This study examined the preventive dental health care experiences of young children with special needs and determined the feasibility of conducting clinical dental examinations at a community-based early intervention services center.Methods:Study methods included 90 parent interviews and dental examinations of their preschool-age children.Results:Thirteen percent of the children received optimal preventive care, defined as twice daily tooth brushing with fluoridated toothpaste and two preventive dental visits in the prior 12 months; 37% experienced care that fell short in both areas. Optimal care was more common among children of parents who reported tooth brushing was not a struggle and those with a personal dentist. Parents’ opinion of the study experience was generally positive.Conclusions:Few children with special needs receive effective preventive care early, when primary prevention could be achieved. Barriers to optimal care could be readily addressed by the dental community in coordination with early intervention providers.

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