Early Dental Visits Don't Appear to Prevent Cavities in Children

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Early Dental Visits Don't Appear to Prevent Cavities in Children
Early Dental Visits Don't Appear to Prevent Cavities in Children

WEDNESDAY, March 1, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Children who start seeing the dentist before age 2 may not lower their risk of cavity treatment as they grow older, according to a study published online Feb. 27 in JAMA Pediatrics.

The findings are based on 19,658 children in Alabama's Medicaid program. Justin Blackburn, Ph.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, and colleagues used insurance claims records to track the children's dental visits from birth. The median follow-up time was four years.

By looking for particular medical codes in Medicaid claims records, the researchers determined that, overall, one-quarter of the children received preventive dental care before the age of 2. It turned out that those children were actually more likely to need treatment for tooth decay over the next several years: 20.6 percent did, versus 11.3 percent of other children -- even though both groups of children were similar in terms of demographics and their families' overall health care use.

"Children with early preventive care visits from dentists were more likely to have subsequent dental care, including caries-related treatment, and greater expenditures than children without preventive dental care. There was no association with subsequent caries-related treatment and preventive dental care from primary care providers," the authors write. "We observed no evidence of a benefit of early preventive dental care, regardless of the provider. Additional research beyond administrative data may be necessary to elucidate any benefits of early preventive dental care."

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