Baby’s first dental examinations are incorporated into each child’s well check visits at Eastern Shore Rural Health System, Inc. (ESRHS) Since the effort began in September 2014, ESRHS has provided caries (tooth decay) risk assessments and preventive services, including anticipatory guidance and fluoride treatments, for more than 250 patient’s ages six months to 36 months at its busiest pediatric office in Franktown, Virginia.
The effort begins very early with new parents receiving a dental “welcome bag” at their baby’s two-month well child check. This welcome bag includes oral health information and an assortment of preventive home care tools for young children. At the child’s six-month well check, ESRHS pediatricians provide assessments to identify children at elevated risk for early childhood caries. Finally at the child’s nine month check the dentist is introduced to the family. The dentist performs a dental examination and provides risk-based preventive interventions including a toothbrush prophylaxis and fluoride treatment at this visit. All the while, ESRHS outreach staff, baby care coordinators and health educators coach parents on the importance of oral health care during these critical first months of life.
“Not only is this an opportunity to intercept dental disease in children, these patient-centered visits have really contributed to our efforts around dental and medical program integration. Our pediatricians and dentists are learning from each other as they strive toward improved health outcomes for our patients and meeting the goals of our health center’s health plan,” shares ESRHS’ Chief Dental Officer Dr. Scott Wolpin. Oral health messages rotate in each of ESRHS centers’ waiting rooms and patient education monitors and health literate posters are prominently displayed in the hallways and treatment rooms in all of ESRHS medical offices. These messages resonate the importance of oral health to overall health and the fact that baby’s first trip to the dentist should occur when the first tooth erupts.
“Our dental program has the audacious goal of serving as the dental home for all of its young medical users” adds Dr. Wolpin. “We really believe this strategy will work since ESRHS is the primary pediatric care provider on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and parents highly value advice given by their child’s pediatrician,” ESRHS, too, has high hopes that this innovative program will significantly impact its youngest patients’ health for the better.
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