U.S. Preventive Services Task Force publishes final oral health recommendations

Recommendations align with ADA’s previous comments

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published its final recommendations about the value of oral health screenings in nondental settings for children and adults, which align with the ADA’s comments earlier this year.

For both asymptomatic adults and children ages 5 to 17, the task force stated that “the current evidence is insufficient” to recommend for or against routine screenings or preventive care for oral health conditions, such as dental caries, in the primary care setting. 

“The USPSTF is calling for more research on addressing oral health in nondental primary care settings, particularly in persons who are more likely to experience oral health conditions and on social factors that contribute to disparities in oral health,” the task force said, adding that primary clinicians “should use their clinical expertise to decide whether to perform these services.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s final recommendations are consistent with the ADA’s comments to the task force in June following a systematic evidence review to evaluate the benefits and harms of screening and preventive interventions for oral health conditions. The Association said in a letter that it “generally agree[s]” with the task force’s draft recommendation statement for oral health in children and adults.  

“We would only point out that the evidence review demonstrated that screening and preventive interventions were beneficial when performed by dental care clinicians. Since routine dental care is an essential primary care service — and general and pediatric dentists are primary care clinicians — it may be worthwhile to highlight that point,” the ADA noted. 

The final recommendation said that during the review, the task force found that preventive interventions are generally performed in dental settings by dental professionals and that there are barriers to providing oral health services in primary care settings such as additional training, specific equipment and reimbursement challenges. 

“The USPSTF recognizes that clinical decisions involve more considerations than evidence alone. Clinicians should understand the evidence but individualize decision-making to the specific patient or situation,” the final statement reads. “Similarly, the USPSTF notes that policy and coverage decisions involve considerations in addition to the evidence of clinical benefits and harms.”

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