Put Dental Visit on Back-to-School Checklist
Thursday, August 30, 2012 • 1:42pm
If your back-to-school checklist doesn’t include a visit to the dentist, you may want to add it. Along with an annual physical, clothes and backpacks, a visit to the dentist helps ensure your child’s education won’t be interrupted by oral health problems.
Dental professionals recommend biannual visits for most children, and the end of summer is an ideal time because it follows a season in which kids have taken a vacation from good oral hygiene and indulged more in treats like soda, ice cream, and cotton candy.
“The school day is no time for a child to be distracted by tooth pain,” said New Jersey pediatric dentist Suzy Press, D.D.S., M.S. “Timing a dental visit for just prior to going back to school may catch dental disease early and avoid pain while in class. In addition, the dentist can provide age-appropriate wellness guidance and advice for what to expect in between office visits. It’s also the perfect time for those participating in fall sports to get fitted for a mouthguard.” Here is a video with some tips about mouthguards.
“A dental visit is important because a dentist can diagnose potential oral health problems such as tooth decay or gum disease,” said Douglas B. Keck, D.M.D., M.S.H.Ed., Connecticut-based pediatric dentist. “They can then apply preventive measures as needed, including teeth cleaning, fluoride treatment, dental sealants, and instruction on good dental hygiene habits. Making sure children get a clean bill of oral health before the school year allows them to return to class flashing a happy and healthy smile.”
Conversely, untreated dental problems can be painful and embarrassing, and can harm a child’s educational and social development. In 2007, for example, the State of California estimated that seven percent of their more than seven million schoolchildren (504,000) missed at least one day of school because of a dental problem.1
Unfortunately, access to sufficient dental care is not nearly what it needs to be for children from poor and uninsured families. A study from the Pew Center on the States found that two-thirds of states in the U.S. do not have adequate policies in place to ensure access to proper preventive dentistry, particularly for those children that lack appropriate access to care. 2 Instead, programs like mobile dental units that visit schools and school-based dental sealant programs are playing a critical part in improving the oral health and quality of life of low-income, American children. The Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation has a long history of supporting dental clinics and community health centers that provide dental care for uninsured children, part of our mission to expand dental care to the underserved.
Regardless, good oral health for children starts at home with proper dental hygiene and diet. The daily one-two punch of brushing twice with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once is still the foundation for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Very young children (ages 1 to 5) are particularly prone to tooth decay and parents should supervise (or actually brush) to make sure they do a good job. A diet light on sugary snacks and drinks and rich in fruits and vegetables goes a long way toward maintaining good oral and overall health.
About Delta Dental
Delta Dental of New Jersey Inc. is New Jersey’s leading dental benefits company, providing or administering coverage to more than 1.5 million people through contracts with employers in New Jersey and Connecticut. The Delta Dental system offers seamless dental benefits administration for employer groups throughout the country and has the largest network of dentists in the nation. For more information, visit www.deltadentalnj.com.
About Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation
Delta Dental established the Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation in 1986. Its mission includes promoting and assisting educational projects devoted to the enhancement of dental health, providing research programs designed to increase public awareness of the general benefits of good health, and improving dental health through the science of dentistry. Each year the foundation provides financial support to various organizations throughout the state.
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Sources: 1 2007 California Health Interview Survey) UCLA Health Policy Research Brief - Unaffordable Dental Care Is Linked to Frequent School Absences, 2009 Pourat N and Nicholson G. http://www.healthpolicy.ucla.edu/pubs/files/Unaffordable_Dental_Care_PB_1109.pdf
2 The Cost of Delay: State Dental Policies Fail One in Five Children. Pew Center on the States. http://www.pewtrusts.org/uploadedFiles/Cost_of_Delay_web.pdf