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Screening and Interventions to Prevent Dental Caries in Children Younger Than 5 YearsUS Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement

Educational Objective
To review the USPSTF recommendations regarding screening and interventions to prevent dental caries in young children.
1 Credit CME
Abstract

Importance  Dental caries is the most common chronic disease in children in the US. According to the 2011-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, approximately 23% of children aged 2 to 5 years had dental caries in their primary teeth. Prevalence is higher in Mexican American children (33%) and non-Hispanic Black children (28%) than in non-Hispanic White children (18%). Dental caries in early childhood is associated with pain, loss of teeth, impaired growth, decreased weight gain, negative effects on quality of life, poor school performance, and future dental caries.

Objective  To update its 2014 recommendation, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) commissioned a systematic review on screening and interventions to prevent dental caries in children younger than 5 years.

Population  Asymptomatic children younger than 5 years.

Evidence Assessment  The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that there is a moderate net benefit of preventing future dental caries with oral fluoride supplementation at recommended doses in children 6 months or older whose water supply is deficient in fluoride. The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that there is a moderate net benefit of preventing future dental caries with fluoride varnish application in all children younger than 5 years. The USPSTF concludes that the evidence is insufficient on performing routine oral screening examinations for dental caries by primary care clinicians in children younger than 5 years and that the balance of benefits and harms of screening cannot be determined.

Recommendation  The USPSTF recommends that primary care clinicians prescribe oral fluoride supplementation starting at age 6 months for children whose water supply is deficient in fluoride. (B recommendation) The USPSTF recommends that primary care clinicians apply fluoride varnish to the primary teeth of all infants and children starting at the age of primary tooth eruption. (B recommendation) The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of routine screening examinations for dental caries performed by primary care clinicians in children younger than 5 years. (I statement)

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Karina W. Davidson, PhD, MASc, Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, 130 E 59th St, Ste 14C, New York, NY 10032 (chair@uspstf.net).

Accepted for Publication: October 26, 2021.

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) members: Karina W. Davidson, PhD, MASc; Michael J. Barry, MD; Carol M. Mangione, MD, MSPH; Michael Cabana, MD, MA, MPH; Aaron B. Caughey, MD, PhD; Esa M. Davis, MD, MPH; Katrina E. Donahue, MD, MPH; Chyke A. Doubeni, MD, MPH; Martha Kubik, PhD, RN; Li Li, MD, PhD, MPH; Gbenga Ogedegbe, MD, MPH; Lori Pbert, PhD; Michael Silverstein, MD, MPH; James Stevermer, MD, MSPH; Chien-Wen Tseng, MD, MPH, MSEE; John B. Wong, MD.

Affiliations of The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) members: Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health, Manhasset, New York (Davidson); Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (Barry); University of California, Los Angeles (Mangione); Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, New York (Cabana); Oregon Health & Science University, Portland (Caughey); University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Davis); University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Donahue); Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota (Doubeni); George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia (Kubik); University of Virginia, Charlottesville (Li); New York University, New York, New York (Ogedegbe); University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester (Pbert); Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts (Silverstein); University of Missouri, Columbia (Stevermer); University of Hawaii, Honolulu (Tseng); Pacific Health Research and Education Institute, Honolulu, Hawaii (Tseng); Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts (Wong).

Author Contributions: Dr Davidson had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. The USPSTF members contributed equally to the recommendation statement.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Authors followed the policy regarding conflicts of interest described at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Name/conflict-of-interest-disclosures. All members of the USPSTF receive travel reimbursement and an honorarium for participating in USPSTF meetings.

Funding/Support: The USPSTF is an independent, voluntary body. The US Congress mandates that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) support the operations of the USPSTF.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: AHRQ staff assisted in the following: development and review of the research plan, commission of the systematic evidence review from an Evidence-based Practice Center, coordination of expert review and public comment of the draft evidence report and draft recommendation statement, and the writing and preparation of the final recommendation statement and its submission for publication. AHRQ staff had no role in the approval of the final recommendation statement or the decision to submit for publication.

Disclaimer: Recommendations made by the USPSTF are independent of the US government. They should not be construed as an official position of AHRQ or the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Additional Contributions: We thank Iris Mabry-Hernandez, MD, MPH, and Sheena Harris, MD, MPH (AHRQ), who contributed to the writing of the manuscript, and Lisa Nicolella, MA (AHRQ), who assisted with coordination and editing.

Additional Information: The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) makes recommendations about the effectiveness of specific preventive care services for patients without obvious related signs or symptoms. It bases its recommendations on the evidence of both the benefits and harms of the service and an assessment of the balance. The USPSTF does not consider the costs of providing a service in this assessment. The USPSTF recognizes that clinical decisions involve more considerations than evidence alone. Clinicians should understand the evidence but individualize decision-making to the specific patient or situation. Similarly, the USPSTF notes that policy and coverage decisions involve considerations in addition to the evidence of clinical benefits and harms. Published by JAMA®–Journal of the American Medical Association under arrangement with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). ©2021 AMA and United States Government, as represented by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), by assignment from the members of the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). All rights reserved.

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