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Dental Checkups: A Back-to-School Essential

Dental Checkups: A Back-to-School Essential

Posted Aug 01, 2016 by Jenifer Dorsey

As you begin shopping for classroom supplies and new clothes, setting up appointments for childhood immunizations (many covered by Obamacare) and sports physicals, and fitting in any final summer getaways, add scheduling a preventive dental exam to your back-to-school to-do list.

A routine visit to the dentist is another way to help set your child up for a healthy, successful school year. And, getting in the habit of adding a dentist appointment to your family’s end-of-summer checklist can help ensure it happens at regular intervals.

Children miss more than 51 million hours of school each year due to … dental disease.[1] And tooth decay, a largely preventable dental disease, is the No. 1 most common chronic childhood disease of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19.[2] Not the most common chronic childhood dental disease, the most common chronic childhood disease, period.


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Preventive dental care recommendations for kids

What is one of the most potent weapons in the fight against this cavity-causing condition? Regular dental visits, which help with prevention and early detection.[3]

The Academy of General dentistry advises that school-age children see a dentist twice a year.[4] Why? Their mouths are changing almost constantly as baby teeth are lost and replaced with permanent teeth.[5]

What to expect at your child’s dentist appointment

During a routine dental visit, the dentist will typically[6]:

  • Clean your child’s teeth
  • Examine his or her teeth, gums, and bite
  • Evaluate his or her oral hygiene, drinking and eating habits, and risk of tooth decay
  • Apply sealants to teeth susceptible to decay
  • Take dental X-rays or perform other diagnostic procedures, as needed
  • Repair or make plans to repair any cavities or tooth defects

Be sure to bring a list of questions or concerns you have to discuss with your child’s dentist or dental hygienist.

See the eye doctor, too

As many as 1 in 20 children can’t see out of one of their eyes, and those who can’t see well can’t perform as well in school.[7],[8] Unless parents ask their kids if they can see, they may not even know there’s a problem.[9] That’s where regular vision screenings come in.

The American Optometric Association recommends children ages 6 to 18 years old get a vision exam in first grade and once every two years thereafter if they are asymptomatic and risk-free.[10] Children at risk of eye and vision problems should schedule vision exams annually or as recommended.[11] The American Association for Pediatric Opthamology offers a list of vision screening recommendations by age at AAPOS.org.



How to pay for kids dental (and vision) care

Dental and vision benefits may be part of your child’s health insurance coverage. Pediatric dental benefits, including oral and vision care, are part of the Affordable Care Act’s essential health benefits.

As an essential health benefit, all Obamacare plans sold on or away from the state-based and federally facilitated exchanges must make dental coverage available to children 18 and younger, either as part of the health insurance plan or as a standalone plan.   

Pediatric dental and vision benefits are based on your state’s benchmark plan, which means they may vary a bit from state to state.[12] You can learn more about state-required benefits at CMS.gov. Read your plan details, or contact your child’s health insurance company to verify benefits.

If you are in between Obamacare plans, or want dental and vision benefits for the entire family, you can buy an individual dental plan through a licensed health insurance producer (call the number at the top of your screen to speak with one), on a website such as healthedeals.com, and directly from a dental insurance company. Some dental plans may include vision benefits, so be sure to read plan details and ask questions before you buy.


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Legal Disclaimers

[1] American Dental Association. “8 Secrets to a Successful Back-to-School Dental Checkup.” Accessed June 26, 2016. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/back-to-school

[2] U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Hygiene-Related Diseases: Dental Caries (Tooth Decay).” Last reviewed and updated Dec. 16, 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/disease/dental_caries.html

[3] American Dental Association. “8 Secrets to a Successful Back-to-School Dental Checkup.” Accessed June 26, 2016. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/back-to-school

[4] Academy of General Dentistry. “Start the School Year Off With a Smile.” Know Your Teeth. Last updated Feb. 2007. http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=s&iid=296&aid=1178

[5] Ibid.

[6] Mayo Clinic Staff. “Tests and Procedures: Dental Exam for Children.” Feb. 14, 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/dental-exam-for-children/basics/what-you-can-expect/prc-20013782

[7] Lawrence, Jean. Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD. “Back-to-School Health Checklist.” WebMD. Accessed June 27, 2016. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/back-to-school-health-checklist

[8] Gallin, Pamela F. “Kids Who Can’t See Can’t Learn.” The New York Times. May 15, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/15/opinion/kids-who-cant-see-cant-learn.html?_r=0

[9] Ibid.

[10] American Optometric Association. “Recommended Eye Examination Frequency.” Accessed June 27, 2016. http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/comprehensive-eye-and-vision-examination/recommended-examination-frequency-for-pediatric-patients-and-adults?sso=y

[11] Ibid.

[12] Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Information on Essential Health Benefits (EHB) Benchmark Plans.” CMS.gov. https://www.cms.gov/cciio/resources/data-resources/ehb.html