The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 2 to 5-year-olds are the only age group in this country where the incidence of decay – early childhood caries and its serious health consequences in particular – is on the rise. Solid data shows children seen by age 1 have significantly less dental disease throughout childhood than their peers who are first seen later in life.
With this rising incidence of tooth decay among very young children and a limited number of pediatric dentists, the WDA Dental Home initiative is helping general dentists and their dental teams become more comfortable and competent in examining and treating very young children.
The WDA Dental Home goal is to examine all children by age 1 (or six months after the eruption of the first tooth) and educate pregnant moms, parents and caregivers about why baby teeth matter and how to care for them.
The WDA defines a dental home as:
“The ongoing relationship between the dentist who is the primary dental care provider and the patient, which includes comprehensive oral health care, beginning no later than age 1 in a continuously accessible, coordinated and family-centered way.”
When a dental team reviews the WDA Dental Home continuing education kit and then puts that knowledge to work turning the general practice into a dental home for patients, exciting things happen:
Financial support of WDA Dental Home materials provided by:
The kit includes an instructional DVD and written materials that detail causes and effects of early childhood caries, how to perform a quick oral exam on 1-year-olds using the knee-to-knee method, preventive counseling measures for parents, treatment options and incorporating the dental home concept into the business of a general dental practice.
Each kit comes in a familiar dental record format and includes:
The Aug. 17, 2009 issue of ADA News included an article highlighting the WDA initiative to develop a dental home CE kit with support from the AAPD and partial underwriting from P&G Oral Health.
ADA News writer Stacie Crozier interviewed WDA Dental Home Subcommittee Chair Dr. Steve Stoll, Director of Oral Care Professional and Scientific Relations for P & G Dr. J. Leslie Winston and AAPD CEO Dr. John S. Rutkauskas for her story.
“Are the terms ‘dental home’, ‘knee-to-knee exam’, ‘anticipatory guidance’ and ‘caries risk assessment’ unfamiliar or foreign to you?
If not, you are among the majority of dentists in Wisconsin and throughout the country getting on board with the concept of infant oral health exams in general practice dental office settings. Read on to learn about the value created by making your dental practice a ‘dental home’!”
-Dr. Jeffrey Moos, general dentist in Mondovi, Wis. and CEO of Midwest Dental
“My husband and I have three children. Our boys never seemed to balk at having their teeth brushed, but my daughter (as she has with most things) fought back ‘tooth and nail’.
After all these years and my experience with the Wisconsin Dental Association’s dental home initiative and the Tri-County Community Dental Clinic in Appleton, I now realize my daughter did me a great favor.
It was the perfect “residency” program for working with young children and their mouths.”
-Dr. Pat McConnell, general dentist in Appleton, Wis.
“Some children may cry during the knee-to-knee exam, but this gives dentists easy access to the oral cavity. When the little ones leave unharmed and realize the visit wasn’t so bad, subsequent visits go even smoother as the child allows us to see and do more. Visits and exams at 1-year help us gain the trust of our youngest patients and their parents and help prevent future traumatic visits.
The tools provided in the WDA Dental Home CE packet enable us to examine and assess our youngest patients and educate their parents and caregivers on tooth brushing techniques and important aspects of nutrition. In some cases, we may be able to intercept the effects of ill-advised dietary habits and prevent major dental problems down the road.”
-Dr. Sue Cable, general dentist in Kenosha, Wis.
“At first, I had some staff resistance to accepting 1-year-old patients…However, after our initial great experiences with little ones, the staff and I are very excited about treating young children even as young as 1 year.
One of our 16-month-old patients came in for a first appointment. We did a knee-to-knee exam, determined the caries risk to be high, demonstrated proper brushing techniques and the importance of lifting the lip and looking for white line lesions for the mother and applied a fluoride varnish. Although he was put on a three-month recall for fluoride varnish therapy, he did not return for seven months…when he did return, it was because his mother was concerned about a ‘spot’ on his front tooth. She knew what to look for because of the anticipatory guidance she received…Because of the education I have received, I not only knew what the appropriate treatment was, but felt comfortable doing it!”
-Dr. Monica Hebl, general dentist in Milwaukee
“I have to admit, the first time I heard the notion of examining a 1-year-old, I thought to myself, ‘Are you crazy? A 1-year-old won’t sit in my chair, a 1-year-old only has eight anterior teeth and a 1-year-old doesn’t have treatment needs. Why would I want to see a 1-year-old?’…I hadn’t seen the connection between the 3-year-old with rampant decay and the 1-year-old whose disease could still be intercepted…So, to those who think that infant oral health is crazy, like I used to, it’s not.”
-Dr. Cliff Hartmann, pediatric dentist in West Allis, Wis.
The WDA surveyed its practicing general dentist members to gather their opinions and practices regarding the examination and treatment of 1 to 3-year-old children to help show how these opinions and behaviors may have shifted between 2007 and 2010.
Links for executive summaries and full reports of both surveys are below (member log-in required to view).
The WDA’s “Promoting Early Childhood Dental Health” program, which combines the dental home CE for dental professionals with its Baby Teeth Matter public awareness campaign, earned a 2011 American Dental Association Golden Apple Award.
The WDA was one of just 11 state and local dental societies nationwide to be recognized for outstanding achievement in dental society activities and excellence in leadership at the ADA annual meeting in October 2011.
More than 10,600 dentists in Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin have received the clinical information and practice tools necessary to help their general practices provide efficient, welcoming dental homes for very young children and families since the WDA launched its dental home initiative in 2009.
During National Children’s Dental Health Month in February 2011 the WDA launched a Baby Teeth Matter public awareness campaign to promote early childhood dental health messages beyond the dental community. This new campaign tells parents and caregivers that baby teeth, even though they eventually fall out, are very important to a child’s early physical, social and emotional development.
Baby Teeth Matter messaging also reminds the general public of oral health’s importance to overall well-being and promotes dentists’ commitment to quality oral health care for patients of all ages, including the very young.
The cornerstone of the Baby Teeth Matter campaign is a 30-second television spot featuring a 3-year-old girl and her mother interacting with a woman dentist in the oral hygiene products aisle of a store. The spot is airing across Wisconsin on over-the-air and cable shows and posted here on WDA.org and YouTube.
The WDA is pleased to offer your state dental association several licensing options for Baby Teeth Matter campaign materials and the Dental Home continuing education kit.
If your state dental association would like to license one or more of the available WDA infant oral health patient and dentist awareness packages, please contact: