Date of Degree


Document Type

Doctoral Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)




Diana A. Beckmann-Mendez


Background. Dental caries is the most common childhood disease, disproportionally impacting minorities, and socio-economically disadvantaged children. Food insecurity impacts 23.6% of children in Texas; the majority being African American and Hispanic. Food insecurity screening rates are abysmal. Dental caries and food insecurity are significantly correlated and likely syndemic. Purpose. Implement oral examination and the “Hunger Vital Sign” screening tool in detecting dental caries and food insecurity at an urban pediatric urgent care center. Evidence. Food insecure children experience adverse health outcomes, impaired long-term health outcomes, developmental and cognitive delays, psychosocial delays, and oral health deficiencies including caries and malabsorption of nutrients. Objectives. Screen 75% of patients seen at a local urgent care center for food insecurity. 100% of patients screening positive received an oral examination. Written mitigation strategies would be provided for all patients screening positive. Methods. The validated Hunger Vital Sign was utilized to screen for food insecurity and an oral exam was performed by a licensed, board-certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner for those patients screening positive. Results. Results revealed an 88.2% screening rate (135 patients out of 153 total patients), 31.8% positive food insecurity rate and 76.7% dental caries co-morbidity rate. Mitigation strategies were deployed for 100% of patients screening positive. Implications. Dental caries and food insecurity screening can be accomplished at any level of pediatric care. Mitigation strategies can improve oral health in children and provide food resources for families.