Preventive oral health services are a cornerstone of good oral health in a child. However, as with other health services, these preventive services may require additional care for children with special health needs. ON report in pediatrics examined prevalence or oral health concerns and received preventive oral health care

Investigators used pooled data from the 2016-2018 National Survey of Children’s Health. The sample comprised 23,099 children with special health needs and 75,612 children without special health needs. Nursing staff were interviewed about toothache, bleeding gums, delayed teeth, tooth decay, and weak or bad teeth. Preventive visits to the dentist, cleaning, brushing teeth, as well as oral health care instructions, fluoride and sealants were defined as preventive oral health services.

Looking at the past year, the researchers found that a higher proportion of children with special health needs than those without special needs had received preventive dental treatment (84% vs. 78%, P <0.0001). An analysis of specific prevention offers showed similar patterns. However, children with special health needs had higher rates of oral health problems than their peers with no need. Tooth decay and tooth decay occurred in 16% of children with special health needs and only 11% in their peers. Through a customized analysis, the researchers found that several factors were significantly associated with a decreased prevalence of preventive oral service use in a subset of children with special health needs, including lower household education, non-English language, younger or worse tooth condition as well lack of health insurance, lack of medical care.

The researchers concluded that while children with special health needs received a higher rate of preventive oral health services than their peers without these needs, they also had poorer oral health status. Ensuring that the appropriate use of preventive oral services is important to reduce oral health problems in children with special health needs.


1. Lebrun-Harris L, Canto M, Vodicka P, Mann M, Kinsman S. Oral health in children and adolescents with special health needs. Pediatrics. July 21, 2021. Epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1542 / peds.2020-025700