The purpose of this study was to examine national data for trends in pediatric patient visits to dentists and physicians that may inform future interprofessional practice.
Data for 95,677 children, aged zero to 17 years, captured between 2011 and 2012 from the National Survey of Children's Health were examined to compare the number of visits made to dentists and physicians at each year of age.
The average age was 8.9±5.2 (standard deviation) years; 28.6 percent were receiving Medicaid. Comparisons showed that, while physician visits were more common than dentist visits at younger ages, children aged nine years and older had more dentist visits than physician visits per year (P<0.001). Stratified analyses showed similar patterns in the frequency of physician and dentist visits within boys (P<0.001), girls (P<0.001), English speakers (P<0.001), and non-English speakers (P<0.001).
Physicians have an opportunity to address oral health in younger children, and dentists have an opportunity to address systemic health for older children. For five-year-olds and younger, physicians should incorporate oral health evaluations and dentist-referrals. For nine-year-olds and older, dentists should provide counseling on healthy weight, nutrition, and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination; monitoring for diabetes and asthma; and screening for smoking, vaping, and sleep apnea.