• The Role of Alaska's Nurse Practitioners in Preventing Early Childhood Caries

      Maixner, Margaret (University of Alaska Anchorage, 2014-10-06)
      Early Childhood Caries (ECC) is the most common chronic disease of childhood despite being preventable. Because of its high prevalence, its impact on the quality of life of young children, and its potential for increasing their risk of caries in the permanent dentition, ECC is arguably one of the most serious and costly health conditions among young children. Poor access to dental services by rural Alaskans and poor dental care in general are considered the main contributing factors to the continued rise in ECC in Alaska. Primary care providers (PCPs), such as nurse practitioners (NPs), are in unique positions to complement the work of dental professionals because PCPs often provide care before a child’s first dental visit. This project assessed the practice habits and perceived competence of Alaska’s NPs with regards to performing pediatric oral health-related tasks as well as knowledge of current tools. Data was collected from NPs in Alaska by survey. This data was analyzed to find specific areas of educational-need and to model an information kit for NPs in the State of Alaska to improve their primary pediatric practice. The results indicated that NPs in the State of Alaska believe oral heath assessments and preventative education should be included in pediatric well-child care but their frequency of actual performance and perceived confidence was low. Recommendations to improve frequency of oral health-related tasks during visits with pediatric populations focus on increasing education in these areas for Alaska’s NPs.