Healthy teeth: all aboard!

The aim of the PhD research of Ashley Verlinden, on which this thesis is based, was to find ways to improve preventive dental care for all children by adding scientific evidence regarding the targeting, effectiveness, and implementation of preventive oral health care.

The first theme in the thesis, targeting, focuses on caries prevalence and socioeconomic disparities among young children. The second theme, effectiveness, assesses the effects of two innovations in oral health care. The third theme, implementation, describes the implementation of interprofessional collaboration in early childhood oral health care.

The results of this research show that, despite a system of full free pediatric dental coverage, socioeconomic status (SES) differences persist for oral health in children. Low socioeconomic status children still have a greater risk of a high caries experience than high socioeconomic status children. Further, the thesis shows two interventions to be effective in promoting oral health of children. These regard a short web-based film about oral health routines for young children distributed via well-child clinics (WCC), and referral of parents of babies to a dental practitioner by the well-child clinics physicians. Finally, the thesis shows interprofessional collaboration between well-child clinics and dental care to be feasible and promising. All in all, these findings provide promising options to improve the oral health of children.