While many people head to the dentist when they are finally feeling the pain of a once neglected problem, the real focus should be on preventive care.
If possible, prevention should start in early childhood. However, this is not always the case. While healthcare.gov has tried to make affordable health plans, not all of them include dental coverage. So even if there is both a need and a want, socioeconomic factors can certainly play a role in children’s declining oral health.
In fact, a recent article at drbicuspid.com explored why some kids have such poor oral healthcare, and along with the lack of education and/or poor diet, economic factors played a big role:
We know oral health diseases are largely preventable, yet we are moving in the wrong direction,” noted Shaheen Hossain, PhD, the primary author of the report, in a statement. “Along with increasing the access to needed services, we still need to educate parents on the importance of oral hygiene, nutritious diets with fewer sugary beverages, and getting routine dental care . . .
They recommended several strategies to improve the oral health of children in Utah:
- Increasing access to dental insurance and care
- Enhancing the public’s understanding of the importance of oral health and its benefits to overall health and quality of life
- Improving coverage by educating families about Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid, and other dental insurance
- Expanding access to community water fluoridation
- Expanding school-based caries prevention activities, such as fluoride varnish and sealant programs in elementary schools
- Providing better incentives and reimbursements to dental practitioners who see low-income people
- Focus on closing the dental care access gap by increasing awareness of existing community resources
Although the study could improve its sample size, it was dismal to find that about 19% of the children were found to have untreated tooth decay. In fact, decay is the most common chronic disease for kids according to the CDC.
But thankfully the Utah study also had some good solutions to reduce this issue–specifically school-based programs for sealants. Yes, it would be ideal for parents to get a dental plan for their family, but paying for monthly premiums is not always plausible for those on a tight budget.
But according to Health Affairs, school programs that placed sealants were actually found to save money for the communities they were enacted in! Besides protecting kids from cavities, sealants are both easy to place and durable according to Delta Dental:
Cavities are the most common chronic disease among children and that untreated decay affects 19.5% of 2- to 5-year-olds and 22.9% of 6- to 19-year-olds.
Luckily there are sealants, which can reduce childhood tooth decay by more than 70%. A dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating that prevents food and bacteria from getting stuck in the grooves and pits of molars and premolars.
It’s recommended children get sealants once they get their permanent teeth. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. Extra Protection
Children are just learning about dental hygiene and may not be properly removing food and plaque from every nook and cranny. Sealants will provide extra protection during these cavity-prone years.
2. Easy and Painless
If your child gets nervous at the dentist, rest assured that sealants are a painless and quick procedure. There are no needles and no drills, and the whole process takes 15 minutes on average.
3. Long Lasting
Sealants can last for up to 10 years! Make sure to periodically check in with your dentist to ensure that your child’s sealants are still intact and don’t have any chips or cracks.
So even if a child isn’t able to go to a dentist for pediatric care, a sealant program will at least give him or her a head-start in the right direction!