1. Hayman, Laura L.
  2. Lewis, Judith A. PhD, RNC, FAAN

Article Content

Brown, A., Lowe, E., Zimmerman, B., Crall, J., Foley, M., & Nehring, M. (2006). Pediatric Dentistry, 28, 553-560.


Early childhood caries (ECC) is a major current public health challenge that affects children from low-income families and racial/ethnic minority groups disproportionately (Vargas, Crall, & Schneider, 1998; American Dental Association, 2000). This report presents the proceedings from a recent national forum convened by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration designed to inform and guide evidence-based efforts to prevent and reduce ECC for all U.S. children. Expanding on lessons learned from existing national ECC programs, this report provides core principles for optimizing dental healthcare for young children and families and direction for innovative roles for nurses and nursing in prevention of ECC. Emphasis is placed on family education about oral health and daily dental hygiene to ensure that parents/caretakers understand the importance of oral health, including patterns of tooth eruption, age-appropriate oral hygiene techniques, and nutrition/dietary intake necessary for optimal oral health across the life course. Interdisciplinary collaboration and innovative mechanisms for improving access and reducing barriers to dental care, reflecting components of the chronic care model, emerge as key core elements of effective ECC programs. Viewing ECC as a chronic disease (and from a life course perspective) with implementation of risk-based approaches to ECC prevention and management that apply resources in proportion to children's risk for dental disease is also emphasized. Training and support for clinical providers serving young children and families and research to inform and guide effective and efficient ECC programs for all children are also part of suggested core principles. Clearly, lessons learned from the ECC programs point to numerous roles for nurses and nursing in meeting the oral healthcare needs of children and families.


Laura L. Hayman




American Dental Association. (2000). ADA statement on early childhood caries. Chicago, IL: ADA. [Context Link]


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health. (2000). Oral health in America: A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: Author.


Vargas, C. M., Crall, J. J., & Schneider, D. A. (1998). Socioeconomic distribution of pediatric dental caries. NHANES III, 1994-1998. Journal of the American Dental Association, 129, 1229-1238. [Context Link]