OBJECTIVES: The study assessed the time until first dental caries for young children seen at five Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) in Iowa and the relationship with the frequency and gaps (in months) of dental episodes, the number of topical fluoride treatments, and the number of dentists caring for the subject.
METHODS: Forty children were randomly selected at each FQHC (n = 200). All children were continuously enrolled in the Medicaid program and had their first dental visit prior to age 6. Dental chart findings, claims data for the child and family, and birth certificate information were merged into one dataset. Dental visits were followed for a minimum of 36 months, including dental visits external to the FQHCs. Using time until first caries as the dependent variable, the data were subject to left, interval, and right censoring and were analyzed via Weibull regression.
RESULTS: Slightly more than half of the 200 children experienced caries. Regression analysis indicated that the hazard of first dental caries increased by approximately 2% with each additional month that transpired between preventive recall examinations. In addition, children with older siblings who had a dental visit at the same center during the previous year prior to the subject’s first visit were more likely to have a longer time until first dental caries.
CONCLUSIONS: Timing of dental care episodes was associated with caries experience in young children from low income families. Dental professionals should focus on regularity of dental care to prevent or delay caries experience in young children.