Retention; Patient Dropouts; Maternal-Child Health Centers; Dental Caries; Poverty; Children


Background: To our knowledge no dental studies have looked closely at subject retention, which is crucial to better understand oral health disparities. In this paper, we report retention rates and review and attempt to assess which retention strategies utilized in 3 dental research studies investigating ECC were effective for retaining WIC-enrolled children. The purpose of this paper is to discuss challenges that were encountered when working with these populations, describe characteristics of those not retained, and summarize some recommendations for future dental studies working at WIC sites. Methods: Three dental studies were conducted at WIC clinics in Iowa. Retention strategies focused on maintenance of contact over time, persistence in rescheduling appointments, utilization of incentives, high recruitment, and frequent communication with parents and program staff. Results: Retention rates in the studies ranged from 60 to 75 percent at the final research interventions. Studies were challenged by frequent moves of subjects, missed appointments, disconnected phones, busy schedules of parents, transportation problems, loss of child custody, family illness, and lack of interest. Those not retained in the studies were more likely to be younger, single, and less educated, with a lower household income and a non-Caucasian child. Lower retention was also associated with the presence of carious lesions. Conclusions: Despite many challenges, studies had good retention rates and benefited from the retention strategies. Future dental studies at WIC clinics may also benefit from arranging transportation, obtaining a free, 800 callback number, and offering after-hours appointments for working parents.