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A new set of performance measurements for children's dental care has been approved by the Dental Quality Alliance for pediatric and family dentists to follow.
The oral health measurements include preventive services, how often dentistry services are used, treatment, oral evaluation, topical fluoride intensity, sealant use on youngsters from ages 6 to 14, continuity of care, sources of services and dental work costs. For instance, the percentage of all pediatric patients who received at least one oral health service within a year is one measurement.
The dental work costs category is a concern to dental professionals and the families they serve because many people cannot afford the high premiums for dental insurance and may forego services as a result. An affordable alternative is a discount dental plan that charges reduced prices on many dentistry services. Being able to afford regular visits to the dentist ensures that basic oral care is being provided and may uncover problems before they become serious.
The DQA was formed in 2008 in cooperation with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the American Dental Association and experts in the dentistry field. Development of the new performance measurements were supported in part with a grant from the ADA Foundation.
"The ADA Foundation is very proud to be part of this significant effort to develop the first fully validated set of performance measures for dentistry," said David Whiston, D.D.S., the foundation's president. "We believe it is consistent with our mission to help advance the quality of care for the good of patients."
University data used
To determine how the dental care for children should be measured, the DQA worked with the University of Florida Institute for Child Health Policy to come up with a reliable evaluation of dental services. The researchers used data from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, Florida Healthy Kids Corporation, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and DentaQuest.
The institute's research is conducted by University of Florida faculty on issues related to the health of children, adolescents and young adults. With the industry-wide participation of DQA members, the measurements are likely to gain widespread acceptance.
"As the only comprehensive multi-stakeholder collaborative, the DQA is well-positioned to collaborate, coordinate and lead in measure development in dentistry through its members' experience, expertise and support," said David May, D.D.S., chairman of the ADA Council on Dental Benefit Programs.
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