Background: Dental caries are the most common chronic condition of childhood and have significant medical, psychological, and financial consequences. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends primary care physicians apply fluoride varnish (FV) every 3 to 6 months from tooth emergence through age 5. Objective: Through a resident-led quality improvement (QI) project, we aimed to provide FV to 50% of patients ages 1 through 5 who did not have a dental visit in the preceding 6 months or receive FV elsewhere in the past month. Methods: From May 2017 through April 2018, we conducted 7 monthly plan-do-study-act cycles to improve our primary outcome measure (FV application), secondary outcome measure (percentage of patients who had routine dental care), and process measure (percentage of dental referrals). Balancing measures included time taken away from other clinical priorities and reimbursement rates. Results: Fluoride varnish application improved from 3.6% to 44% with a 54% peak. The percentage of patients under 6 who had seen a dentist in the past 6 months increased from 30% to 47%. The percentage of dental referrals increased from 17% to 33%. Conclusions: Application of FV is a quick, cost-effective way for primary care providers to improve dental health. This resident-led QI project increased rates of FV application, dental referrals, and dental visits while meeting ACGME guidelines for experiential learning in QI. By adapting to state-specific guidelines and workflows of each clinic, this QI project could be nationally reproduced to improve adherence to AAP and United States Preventive Services Task Force guidelines.
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