Association between first oral examination characteristics and dental treatment needs in privately insured children: A claims data analysis



Early childhood caries (ECC) remains the most common, preventable infectious disease among children in the United States. Screening is recommended after the eruption of the first tooth, but it is unclear how the age at first dental examination is associated with eventual restorative treatment needs. The authors of this study sought to determine how provider type and age at first dental examination are associated longitudinally with caries experience among children in the United States.


Deidentified claims data were included for 706,636 privately insured children aged 0 through 6 years as part of the nationwide IBM Watson Health Market Scan (2012-2017). The authors used Kaplan-Meier survival analysis to describe the association between the age of first visit and restorative treatment needs.


A total of 21% of this population required restorative treatment, and the average age at first dental examination was 3.6 years. A multivariable Cox proportional hazards model showed increased hazard for restorative treatment with age at first dental visit at 3 years (hazard ratio, 2.05; 95% CI, 1.97 to 2.13) and 4 years (hazard ratio, 3.99; 95% CI, 3.84 to 4.16).


The high proportion of children requiring restorative treatment and late age at first dental screening show needed investments in educating general dentists, medical students, and pediatricians about oral health guidelines for pediatric patients.

Practical Implications

Communicating the importance of children establishing a dental home by age 1 year to parents and health care professionals may help reduce disease burden in children younger than 6 years.

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