Oral health promotion to young children is delivered by primary care nurses as part of general health promotion given to all children in Norway.
The objective was to evaluate established routines for referral of children by primary care nurses to the dental services and to study whether referred children younger than 3 years required contact with dental personnel.
All children referred by primary care nurses to the dental services in one county during one year were included. Primary care nurses referred children using criteria developed by dental personnel. At the dental clinic, anamnestic information, dental health and oral health behaviour of the referred children were registered.
Altogether, 181 children were referred; 53% were younger than 3 years. The most frequent reasons for referral of children younger than 3 years were caries or dental plaque, and 34% had visible plaque accumulation and/or visible signs of caries. All referred children had at least one risk factor for caries. The referral reasons given by primary care nurses corresponded partly with findings at dental examination. The results indicated that 2% of the children younger than 3 years were referred to the dental services.
The results indicated that by using established referral routines, all children referred from well-baby clinics to the dental services were caries risk children who required early contact with dental personnel. However, the low proportion of children in the studied population referred by primary care personnel may indicate under-referral of children to the dental services.