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Education Just for You – Medical Providers

Cavities can be prevented, but not enough children get early preventive care.

Children with cavities can suffer from pain, have difficulty eating, be distracted from learning, and feel less confident. Providing preventive care, such as screenings and fluoride varnish, is critical as soon as teeth erupt and regularly thereafter.

What can I-Smile do for physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants?

The goal of I-Smile is to ensure that all children have a dental home. As a medical provider, you are an integral part of this dental home and an important partner in improving children’s oral health, especially children 0–3 years.  

The first step is to link with your local I-Smile Coordinator

Your I-Smile Coordinator can help you with:   

  • Finding a dentist for families who don’t have a usual source of care and helping make dental appointments.
  • Assisting families with dental insurance and other payment sources for care.
  • Arranging transportation to dental offices.
  • Providing training for your medical staff on oral health, including screening and fluoride varnish application.

How can medical providers help?

Assess: Help identify tooth decay through oral health screenings at each well-child visit.
Educate: Provide anticipatory guidance to parents and children about oral health care and the importance of regular dental visits.

Refer: For children needing dental treatment, make a referral to a dental provider or I-Smile Coordinator.

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children, five time more common than asthma. Despite being highly preventable, the American Academy for Pediatrics states that nearly 1 in 4 children ages 2-5 experience dental cavities. Dental treatment at this young age, often requires out-patient surgery to treat effectively. Left untreated, children with active tooth decay may experience mouth pain, difficulty learning and concentrating, impaired eating, and delayed speech development.

Cavity Free Iowa is a medical-dental initiative, launched in 2017, focused on early oral health care and prevention of early childhood caries. Recognizing that young children often see their primary care provider on a routine basis for well child visits, the goal of Cavity Free Iowa is to increase the number of children ages 0-35 months receiving preventive oral health services and dental referrals. Dental hygienists, serving as regional I-Smile Coordinators, are providing onsite oral health training for medical clinic staff to do oral screenings, risk assessments, fluoride varnish applications, and referrals to local dentists.

For more information about Cavity Free Iowa check out our question and answer document

Resources for medical providers

Community Water Fluoridation

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends all community water systems provide a fluoride level of 0.7 mg/L to prevent tooth decay. Even with the availability of other fluoride-containing products, water fluoridation safely prevents 25% of tooth decay in both children and adults.

More information on water fluoridation for you and your patients can be found here.

Do you know the fluoride level in your community?

For the most current information about fluoride levels in your community, contact your local community water operator or check out the My Water’s Fluoride website.

Additional Fluoridation Resources

The following resources, created by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Campaign for Dental Health, provide additional information about water fluoridation for both you and your patients:

Did You Know?

The three evidence based practices to prevent tooth decay - fluoride varnish, sealants, and optimally fluoridated water.