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Connecticut’s Efforts to Improve Young Children’s Dental Health
Professional Development, Physical Health, Family Support, Professional Development
Source Of Information:
ZERO TO THREE Policy Center state updates
Department of Public Health
Connecticut has taken significant steps to improve the oral health of young children. In response to a 2006-2007 screening of more than 600 Head Start students that revealed high levels of untreated tooth decay (31% of screened children had evidence of dental decay and 20% of those with decay had not been treated), the state’s Department of Public Health initiated Home By One. The initiative’s primary objective was to establish a dental home for all Connecticut children by age one. This early prevention is important for children’s overall health. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children in the United States and can have serious implications for speech, language, and nutrition.
The Home By One program was funded with a four-year HRSA Targeted MCH Oral Health Service Systems Grant, from 2007 through 2010. The program utilized a variety of strategies to increase the number of children receiving dental services. They included: establishing partnerships between pediatric practices, dental homes, WIC offices, and HUSKY (SCHIP) case managers; training pediatricians in fluoride varnish application, caries risk assessment, and guidelines for dental referral; training dentists in the appropriate technique for age one dental visits; and engaging WIC parents in oral health advocacy workshops. The state also approved Medicaid reimbursement for primary care physicians who provide early preventive dental care for children younger than three.
The Home By One initiative produced significant results: 935 medical professionals received training, 40 dental homes were established, and nearly 9,500 children under age three received dental services. Connecticut is looking at how these early successes can be built upon in the future.
The Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut developed an Oral Health Module as part of its Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC) program. The module provides free onsite instruction for performing mouth exams, preventive counseling and fluoride varnish applications for children under three; and guidance on billing services. The module is accredited by the Department of Social Services as satisfying the training requirements for eligibility to receive reimbursement.