Less than half of dentists are willing to treat small children
NEW YORK, N.Y., USA: A recent survey of more than 1,000 dentists in New York City has shown that 53 percent of general practitioners do not see children aged 0 to 2 in their practice. Since this constitutes a large number of the dentists in practice in the city, families with young children are facing a lack of access to dental care. It is generally recommended that children have their first visit to the dentist by the age of 1.
Between September and November 2010, researchers at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene sent out questionnaires to general practitioners (2,311) and pediatric dentists (140) in New York with the aim of assessing the availability of dentists to treat young children. According to the report, 974 general practitioners and 83 pediatric dentists responded (46 percent).
Among other findings, the survey found that 42 percent of the general practitioners who had been in practice for more than 30 years had seen fewer children aged 2 or younger than dental care providers who had been practicing for less than six years (70 percent) had. Pediatric practices generally accepted patients of all ages. While only 2 percent of pediatric dentists restricted their practice to children aged 3 or older, access for small children was more limited with regard to general practices. A quarter of general practitioners restricted their practice to patients aged 3 and older. About 9 percent reported that they did not see children younger than 6.
For almost 60 percent of the dentists, discomfort with small children was the main reason for not treating patients in this age group. More than 30 percent were concerned about possible disruption due to crying and 26 percent stated that they did not treat small children because of inadequate reimbursement.
The investigators recommended additional training and access to consulting pediatric dentists for general dentists to remove the existing barriers to accessing dental care for young children.
The study was published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.