Recently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released a set of recommendations for primary care doctors, encouraging them to take a more prominent role in the dental care of children.
The Task Force suggests that primary care physicians prescribe oral fluoride supplements (like drops, tablets, or lozenges) for children ages six months or older who do not have adequate fluoride in their water supply.
Additionally, the USPSTF recommends that infants and children should have fluoride varnish applied to their teeth as soon as baby teeth erupt whether the local water supply has sufficient fluoride or not. This is something that can be done quickly by either a physician, nurse, or medical assistant right in the office and requires no special equipment.
The Task Force suggests that the application of fluoride varnish should become a regular part of a well-child visit.
According to USPSTF Chairman, Dr. Michael LeFevre, three out of four preschool-aged children do not visit a dentist. This makes the role of the primary care physician crucial in making sure that children are protected from dental disease. As you know, tooth decay is a very big problem for children. Almost half of children aged 2 to 11 have cavities in their baby teeth. This is highly preventable with intervention from primary care physicians like you.
The American Dental Association (ADA) has also updated their guidelines stating that children should begin using toothpaste with fluoride as soon as their first teeth start to appear.
Primary care physicians are encouraged to perform preventive care like examining a child's teeth, prescribing fluoride supplementation when appropriate, and applying fluoride varnish. They are also urged make sure parents know that their child should be seeing a dentist regularly. Good preventive care at an early age can have a tremendously positive impact on a child's oral health over the course of a lifetime.
Information on reimbursement for fluoride varnish application by physicians in Rhode Island is available here.
Free Lunch and Learn in-office training on how to incorporate fluoride varnish into your practice is available to Rhode Island primary care providers through “From the First Tooth”. Click here to learn more.