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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Does Text Messaging Improve Follow-Up Attendance After Completing Pediatric Dental Treatment Under General Anesthesia?

  • Author(s): Baker, Stacy
  • Advisor(s): Hyde, Susan
  • et al.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to evaluate attendance at a 3-month follow-up appointment when text messaging is used to communicate appointment reminders and oral health information to parents of children who received dental treatment under general anesthesia (GA).

Methods: A sample of 21 parent/child pairs were recruited for an unblinded, pilot RCT from the University of California, San Francisco, Pediatric Dentistry clinic. Children were aged 1-6 years, ASA (American Society of Anesthesiologists) classification 1 or 2, and were scheduled to have dental treatment completed under GA. The pairs were randomized into 2 groups. Parents in the experimental group received appointment reminders and oral health information by text messages bi-weekly. The control group received appointment reminders by the conventional system using personal phone messages and postcards with no supplemental educational information. Data was collected regarding demographics, oral hygiene and dietary practices, and preferences for mode of appointment reminders.

Results: Most of the families were low income (90% Medicaid dental insurance). An average estimated distance of 28 miles was traveled to reach the clinic, and text messaging was the preferred method for appointment reminders (67%). Attendance at post-op exam appointments was 60% for parents who received text messages (n=11) and 80% for those who received a personal phone call (n=10), both higher than historical attendance rates in this clinic (43%). There were 7 participants (32%) who returned for the 3-month follow-up, 2 (18%) from the experimental group and 5 (45%) from the control group. There were no statistically significant differences in follow-up attendance rates between participants receiving text messages as compared to phone calls, possible due to the small sample size (p=0.17). Although not statistically significant, participants reported a trend of reduced sugar consumption and increased water intake for their children.

Conclusions: There was better attendance at the post-op visit than 3-month appointment. However, both groups exhibited elevated attendance rates when compared to historical rates for this clinic.

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