To identify and characterize US early childhood caries (ECC) programs.
A 39 question online survey was fielded to 245 ECC programs identified from the literature and peer programs. The 101 respondents (41 percent response rate) reported their program’s geographic reach, type, areas of focus, target populations, approaches, affiliations, providers, goals, costs, and funding.
Half of the programs affiliate with formal early childhood social service or nutrition programs. Almost all characterize their work as risk reduction, disease suppression, or arrest. In descending order, programs describe their approaches as educating parents, addressing family‐level health behaviors, utilizing pharmacological approaches with fluoride varnish or silver nitrate, delivering education to health professionals, and conducting research. A majority of programs target urban, poor, and low‐income populations. Although little more than a third of programs utilize a logic model, most collect evaluation data and believe their program to be “very” or “somewhat” replicable. Programs tend to depend on multiple funding sources and be largely reliant on grants with foundations as the leading source of support followed by federal grants, state/local grants, and governmental programs such as Head Start.
Programs demonstrate attempts at ECC prevention and management through holistic approaches predicated on behavioral theory, cariology science, and public health principles. Partnerships created by these programs provide unique opportunities to promote oral health. Various strategies could potentially leverage systemic changes in the delivery of dental care for young children.