Skip to site content

ECC Program Spotlight

We know there are champions who are working hard to improve access for young children. Each quarter a local program that has increased access for 0-5 year olds will be highlighted. By highlighting these programs, we hope to encourage other dental programs to develop local ECC programs. Let us know if you have a program in your Area that is working with community partners or using unique strategies to improve access and prevent ECC. Contact us about a program we should spotlight, or to add your program to the spreadsheet.

Prescription for Oral Health

By Suzanne Marks, Director, Albuquerque Area Dental Support Center

One of the original objectives of the Early Childhood Caries (ECC) Initiative was to increase access by 25 percent among 0 to 5 year-olds. The 2010 Basic Screening Survey Report showed that 20 percent of one year-olds and 40 percent of two year-olds had already experienced caries. Preliminary information from the ECC Virtual Learning Community Program indicates that while we are seeing promising increases in the rates of sealants, fluoride varnish and even Interim Therapeutic Restorations, increasing access to dental care among 0 to 2 year-olds continues to hover around 10 percent. ECC organizers believe, "... access to dental care, especially in the hard-to-reach 0-2 year-old population, is the key to the long-range success of the ECC Collaborative." We cannot prevent ECC if we aren’t seeing 0-2 year olds, it’s that simple!

Access to care is defined by the number of patients with either a 0000 or 0190 code in a given year (the same way it is counted in GPRA). Many recommendations for improving access to care have been identified and widely shared.

Albuquerque Area is implementing a Prescription for Oral Health pad and invites YOUR dental program to do the same!!

Prescription for Oral Health is another tool for your ECC toolbox based on an idea successfully implemented at Kaiser Permanente, Northern California, whereby physicians, nurses, medical assistants and other members of the healthcare team issued "prescriptions" to refer patients for health education services. Prescription for Oral Health was adopted in the Albuquerque Area as a tool to be promoted by Dental personnel to inform medical colleagues and community partners and to engage them to increase access to care by simplifying Dental referrals.

Prescriptions are tangible, important and credible. A prescription is easily generated and serves as a powerful reminder of action on the part of the patient (or the patient’s caretaker). Prescription for Oral Health can be easily worked into many of the recommendations for increasing access to Oral Health care. For example:

  • "Arm" medical champions with Prescription for Oral Health pads to streamline the referral process and reinforce the importance of Dental appointments to recipient families
  • Incentivize patients to follow through and mention or bring in their Prescription for Oral Health to dental for scheduling the appointment for which they were referred
  • Tailor Prescriptions for Oral Health to indicate Open Access Hours; i.e., "Drop in with your child any afternoon from 1 to 5 pm"
  • Use Prescription for Oral Health pads to facilitate referring patients seen in offsite locations back to the Dental Program and/or leave Prescription for Oral Health pads with community partners such as school nurses, Head Start, WIC personnel to facilitate their ability to refer patients to Dental. Encourage community partners to share with their colleagues and keep plenty of Prescription for Oral Health pads on hand using restocking as an opportunity to further reinforce your message. It’s even more powerful if you can provide folks with specific examples of patients that have visited Dental as a result.
  • Engage your fellow health professionals as well as Tribal governing boards/health boards by demonstrating how easy it is to refer patients using Prescription for Oral Health pads

Programs that successfully implement the Prescription for Oral Health will be highlighted in an upcoming article in the ECC Spotlight on the Dental Portal. Please contact Dr. Schaeffer ( or Dr. Bruerd ( with your success stories.