‘Talking to parents’ could cut kids’ caries

A recent study reveals that if dental clinicians had proper training in talking to children’s parents it would reduce rates of kids developing early childhood caries (ECC) or cavities by 77%.

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) found that if paediatricians were given proper communication, educational and information technology tools and training it could dramatically cut current dental figures for the US.

The report maintains that ECC can lead to serious complications if untreated, including abscesses requiring costly surgery. Infection and pain caused by ECC can also impair growth, weight gain and limit school attendance.

The researchers provided paediatric clinicians with communication skills training to help them more effectively counsel parents and caregivers to reduce children’s ECC risk.

Paediatricians and nurses took part in a one-hour study training session, and were provided with educational brochures to give to parents.

The electronic medical record was also adapted to prompt clinicians to remember to counsel.

After the educational program, a simultaneous recruitment of children affected with ECC was conducted at a comparison site, where the clinicians did not receive training.

Parents and carers of children – aged six months to five years – were asked to participate in a clinical exam and interview that consisted of a series of questions enquiring about the parent or carer’s discussion with the child’s doctor or nurse.

This interview assessed the degree the clinician covered the topics on which they had been trained to counsel regarding ECC-risk reduction.

This process was repeated approximately one year later.

The findings show that providers at the intervention site had greater knowledge and conducted more counselling, and patients at that site had significantly reduced odds of developing ECC over time.

Lead author, Nancy R Kressin, an associate professor of General Internal Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, said: ‘Paediatric clinicians at Boston Medical Center are committed to children’s oral health, and to addressing the deficit in clinical preparation to help prevent ECC.

‘We developed and implemented a multi-faceted paediatric practice-based intervention where children, especially vulnerable to ECC, received enhanced care to prevent this disease from occurring or reoccurring, and it had marked effects on reducing children’s rates of developing ECC.’

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and appears in the October issue of the Journal Medical Care.

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