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The Role of Medical Providers

1.1 Integrating Oral Health and General Health

Medical providers and their staff, who see young children earlier and more frequently than oral health providers, play a key role in helping to ensure that oral disease, including dental caries, is prevented, or, if it already exists, that it is treated. Medical providers and their staff can have a major impact on young children’s oral health outcomes.

The incorporation of oral health into well-child visits takes little time and involves the following activities:

  • Assessing the child’s risk for developing dental caries
  • Recognizing abnormal findings in the oral cavity
  • Providing anticipatory guidance to parents
  • Applying fluoride varnish
  • Making referrals to dentists

Realizing the important role that medical providers can play in children’s oral health, the American Academy of Pediatrics developed a policy statement recommending that by age 6 months every child should receive an oral health risk assessment conducted by a qualified pediatrician or a qualified pediatric health professional.1 The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry supports this recommendation.2 Click here to see a map of states in which Medicaid programs reimburse primary medical care providers for the application of fluoride varnish.

Throughout the United States, there is a growing trend toward training medical providers to conduct oral health risk assessment and apply fluoride varnish. Currently, approximately 80 percent of state Medicaid programs, including the Maryland Medicaid Program, reimburse medical providers for the application of fluoride varnish.