System-Level Interventions to Reduce Utilization of General Anesthesia to Treat Dental Caries

Published 10/06/2021

Untreated dental caries are common in children, and can result in severe pain and infection. They can sometimes even lead to hospitalization requiring general anesthesia. Interventions, such as community-based preventive care and pre-authorizations for treatment, can reduce the incidence of caries and the cost of treatment.

This practice brief identifies interventions that reduced the utilization of general anesthesia for dental caries in children under the age of six at Advantage Dental, a dental service organization based in Oregon. Key points include:

  • The expansion of the community care team, metrics to reinforce provider education and training, and the use of incentive payments were all associated with reductions in the rate of operating room (OR) utilization. 
  • The preauthorization system provided data to identify knowledge gaps among the providers.
  • Education and training on evidence-based alternative interventions were (and are) helpful to support behavior change.

The practice brief also includes suggested strategies for implementing these initiatives.

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