Dental care is the single greatest unmet need among children, and the scale of the problem is particularly serious for young children. The pain from untreated cavities in children imposes a daily toll on children's lives, causing problems performing in school and difficulty sleeping, playing and eating.This disease is preventable, but every year, an estimated 4.5 million young children develop early childhood cavities, placing them at greater risk for future dental health complications.
Young children see primary medical care providers–pediatricians, family practice physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and nurses–earlier and more frequently than they see dentists. This is particularly true for children in low-income families, who face persistent barriers to accessing dental care. Medical staff frequently teach parents how to help their children adopt healthy behaviors such as when and how to brush teeth. This makes the medical office an ideal place to deliver a set of preventive dental services: oral health assessment, education of parents, anticipatory guidance, and application of fluoride varnish.
Fluoride varnish is a protective gel that is painted on teeth to help prevent early childhood cavities and reduce or reverse the progression of cavities that have already started. It is an inexpensive but important tool in improving children's dental health. When states compensate physicians for oral health care, they reduce the tremendous barriers low-income children face in accessing dental health care.
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