Pediatric Healthcare and the Pivotal Role of Dentists

In the US, cavities or caries are dramatically on the rise among children.  Many children are also without access to preventative and therapeutic dental care, in both middle and low income families. This is particularly unfortunate since cavities are preventable and treatable, as dentists well know. Yet systemic health is affected by oral health, and without preventative care, these children are more likely to be unhealthy and have health problems.

The pivotal role of dentists as health care providers is more recognized with pediatric patients, and recently pediatric medical doctors have taken steps to recognize and move towards greater integration of health care with pediatric dentists. Electronic health records are booming in the US, but they are largely focused on medical needs and adult data.

Still, some doctors and healthcare policymakers are working to get pediatric dental data incorporated into electronic health records (EHRs). Vendors haven’t responded strongly yet, particularly because meaningful use does not yet embrace pediatric or dental data, but as the public health crisis around preventable caries continues, something has to give.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has created a pediatric standard for data, which includes dental cavities as a key data point. Pediatricians and pediatric dentists may have the beginning of a collaboration to combat this entirely preventable public health threat, and EHRs may be the forum in which this takes place. For that to happen, software must be designed that not only includes dental data, but allows for health information exchange between dentists and pediatricians.

Lessons Learned:

  • Preventable cavities in children are on the rise, and negatively affect systemic health, yet medical providers do not have access to information about oral health.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics has created a pediatric data standard that includes the presence of cavities or tooth decay, but that standard is not yet implemented in EHRs.
  • Pediatricians and dentists can work together to put pressure on vendors to increase data exchange and reduce this public health problem.


Merrill, Molly (2013) Pediatric EHR redesign in the works. Healthcare IT News, Jan 18th. Last Accessed 1/23/2013: