Oral health needs and barriers to dental care in hospitalized children


*e-mail: mbrennan@carolinas.org.


The goal of this study was to examine the oral health status and utilization of dental care reported by hospitalized children.

A bedside oral examination was performed on hospitalized children. Past dental treatment and current oral health needs were assessed. The mean age (± SD) of 120 enrolled patients was 6.7 (± 2.9) years (range 3 to 12); 60% were males. The age of the patients' first dental office visit was 3.5 t 1.8 years, with 28% having never seen a dentist. Unmet oral health needs (e.g., untreated dental caries) were noted in 42% of children, and soft tissue (mucosal) abnormalities in 59% of children. Children with chronic medical conditions reported barriers to receiving dental care more often (24%) than children with acute medical conditions (3.5%) (p=0.04).

A high prevalance of unmet oral health needs and soft tissue abnormalities was identified in a hospitalized pediatric population. Children with chronic medical conditions were more likely to experience barriers to obtaining dental care.