1.4 Opportunities for Oral Health Care Delivery and Financing
Guidelines from several professional organizations recommend that all
children should be referred to a dentist 6 months after the
first tooth erupts or by age 12 months (whichever comes first)
for establishment of a dental home. A
dental home is a comprehensive, continuously accessible, and
affordable source of oral health care under the supervision
of a dentist. The first visit establishes the dental home.
This visit presents an opportunity to implement preventive health practices
and to reduce the risk for preventable oral disease. Depending
on individual risk factors, children with special health care
needs may need to visit an oral health professional every 2
to 3 months for professional preventive care.
Many dedicated oral health professionals currently provide care for children
with special health care needs. General dental practices in
small communities, pediatric dental practices, dentists who participate
in Medicaid, and older dentists are more likely to provide care for children
with special health care needs. Oral
health professionals working in schools of dentistry and dental hygiene,
specialized residential facilities or hospitals, and university centers
of excellence for developmental disabilities are also important sources
of care. Experiences acquired during professional training or continuing
education courses are important factors in increasing oral health professionals’ willingness
to provide care for this population and in increasing their
confidence in providing care.
Continued on the next page.