Opinions of Early Head Start staff about the provision of preventive dental services by primary medical care providers

Kavita R Mathu-Muju, Jessica Y Lee, Leslie P Zeldin, R Gary Rozier
Journal of Public Health Dentistry 2008, 68 (3): 154-62

OBJECTIVE: This study investigates the opinions of the Early Head Start (EHS) staff about physicians and nurses providing preventive dental services for children in EHS.

METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was undertaken of the EHS staff having contact with families in EHS programs in North Carolina (NC). A self-completed questionnaire solicited their opinions (agree, disagree, don't know) about whether physicians and nurses can "provide preventive dental care" and "identify dental problems" in infants and toddlers. Staff knowledge (four items) and attitudes (five items) were tested for their association with whether staff had an opinion (agree/disagree versus don't know) and if so, what that opinion was (agree versus disagree) using the generalized estimating equation method.

RESULTS: Questionnaires were completed by 476 staff (98 percent response) in 18 programs (100 percent response). The majority of staff believed that physicians and nurses can provide preventive dental services (66 percent) and identify dental problems (52 percent). Staff placing importance on ensuring access to dental care and who were knowledgeable about fluoride uses were more likely to have an opinion. Among staff with an opinion, those familiar with the NC program where these services are provided in medical offices were more likely to agree that physicians and nurses can provide preventive services and identify problems.

CONCLUSIONS: Although the opinions of the majority of the EHS staff are not a barrier to using primary medical care providers to deliver preventive dental care, education is needed for staff who are unfamiliar with this approach.

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