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Childhood dental care scheme produces mixed results
Updated: 7/7/2008 2:00:28 PM

A new study into the efficaciousness of a scheme designed to improve access to dental care for children from low-income families has reached mixed conclusions.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina and Duke University examined the Into the Mouths of Babes program, which offers dental checkups to children attending a pediatric primary care office.

The children are screened for tooth decay and the doctor then makes referrals to a dentist for those that need them, which is designed to counter the problem of infrequent or non-existent visits to a dental specialist.

According to the study, five per cent of the 24,403 children who participated in the scheme during the specified timeframe were found to have signs of tooth decay, 32 percent of whom were referred to a dentist. In addition, 3.5 percent of all the children had made a dental visit before the age of three-and-a-half.

The age of a child and the availability of a general dentist in their area were found to have an impact on whether or not they were referred. The report's authors concluded that although this scheme has benefited some, access to dental care for low-income families remains unacceptably low.

This report follows research which showed that almost half of all patients who are referred to a dental specialist do not turn up for their appointment.
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