Facilitating the transition of patients with special health care needs from pediatric to adult oral health care

Arthur J Nowak, Paul S Casamassimo, Rebecca L Slayton
Journal of the American Dental Association 2010, 141 (11): 1351-6

BACKGROUND: Without guidelines or policies in dentistry for transitioning adolescents with special heath care needs from pediatric to adult oral health care, little is known about traditional support services. The authors surveyed pediatric dentists about their transition of adolescent patients with and without special health care needs (SHCNs) to adult care.

METHODS: In 2009, the authors e-mailed a pilot-tested survey modified from a survey used for U.S. pediatricians to 4,000 pediatric dentists. The survey included demographic questions and questions regarding services and barriers associated with the transition of patients to adult care.

RESULTS: Responses were obtained from 1,686 (42.2 percent response) pediatric dentists who were mostly in group or solo private practices and were younger, in that most had completed their education in the preceding 15 years. More than one-half practiced in suburban settings, and most worked with both dental hygienists and dental assistants. Most assisted patients with SHCNs with their transitions to adult care, and the predominant barrier to transitioning to adult care was availability of general dentists and specialists who were willing to accept these new patients. Pediatric dentists' answers paralleled those of pediatricians for the most part in terms of services provided and barriers to transition.

CONCLUSIONS: Most responding dentists helped adolescents with and without SHCNs make the transition into adult care, but the major barrier was the availability of general dentists and specialists.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: With an office protocol in place that includes trained staff members, transitioning patients (especially those with SHCNs) to adult care can be facilitated to provide the appropriate oral health and support services.


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