Pediatric primary care providers can play an important role in oral health screening, family education, and regular dental referrals. This is critical for low-income and minority children, who have higher rates of dental disease than those from wealthier families. New Jersey Smiles: A Medicaid Quality Collaborative to Improve Oral Health in Young Kids developed a number of resources to support providers in these efforts:
- How Primary Care Providers Can Improve Oral Health – Strategies for oral health evaluation and encouragement of screening and prevention;
- A Pediatric Care Provider Oral Health Assessment Form – A tool for use during primary care visits;
- The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Caries Risk Assessment Tool – A matrix of oral health factors associated with risk for dental disease;
- The NJ Smiles Directory of Dental Providers for Young Children (Rev. June 2014) – A resource with contact information for dentists participating in NJ FamilyCare/Medicaid MCOs who are willing to see young children; and
- A Dental Provider Referral Form – A handout to provide families with contact information for recommended dental providers and the NJ FamilyCare/Medicaid MCOs.
While developed for New Jersey providers, these resources can be adapted and used in other states interested in improving oral health for young children.
The 18-month NJ Smiles initiative engaged the state’s five Medicaid MCOs, NJ FamilyCare/Medicaid, New Jersey Head Start, and other regional partners to improve access to dental care among low-income and minority children. Launched by CHCS in 2007 with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NJ Smiles has increased dental service utilization and the establishment of dental homes for this population.