Q: Why are preventative visits for children so important?
A: Every child should go to the dentist every six months for visits that include cleanings and sealants to reduce cavities and avoid painful or costly visits in the future.
Sealants are an excellent preventative measure that can reduce cavities for children. Application of sealants is painless and easy for kids, and they are covered by Medi-Cal Dental, which also covers exams and cleanings every six months for children.
Preventative dental visits are the easy, fun visits for children and they reduce the risk of a more stressful or expensive visit in the future. Most preventative treatments are covered by Medi-Cal Dental, making the visit low cost or essentially free to the parent.
Q: What should parents expect for a preventative visit? Is it expensive, or scary for the child?
A: Not at all. That’s why preventative visits are so important. These are the “easy” visits that are not scary or painful, and can be quite fun. At our Western Dental and Children’s Dental offices, we give kids a toy or balloon to celebrate their great visit. And almost all preventative care is covered by Medi-Cal, so there is rarely any cost at all.
Q: What are the facts around cavities and dental decay for children?
In some ways, the news is good. The CDC reported in April that national average rates of cavities dropped from 50% in 2012 to 44% in 2016, so that’s a great improvement for millions of children. These gains are coming largely because of preventative visits – where children are getting exams, cleanings, sealants, and other basic care that is less expensive and makes a huge difference long term.
But for many communities, and especially Hispanic and African-American children, the picture has not yet improved. Hispanic kids are the most likely to have cavities (52%, which is higher than the 2012 national average!), and African-American kids have the most untreated cavities (17%).
Q: The CDC study showed that Hispanic and African-American children are more at risk? Why is that?
The primary reason is that the children are missing preventative visits that are less expensive, not painful, and less scary for the kids themselves. Why that happens is a mix of: Economic reasons – for a busy, hard-working family it is difficult to take off work, and potentially Cultural reasons – for example assuming that baby teeth are not as important.
Parents need to know that these preventative visits set up a long term health trend of their kids, and often missing these easy visits – which are covered by Medi-Cal and is not scary or painful – will result in the harder operatory visits down the line. Taking a short amount of time now saves a lot of time, cost, and a potentially difficult visit for a child later.
Western Dental helps address this by accepting Medi-Cal Dental at all 192 offices in California including its Western Dental, Western Dental Kids, Children’s Dental Group, and Kids Dental Kare offices.
Q: What can be done to reverse the trend and mitigate the problem?
Education about what the state covers helps a great deal. Many parents don’t realize that if you have Medi-Cal, you have Medi-Cal Dental too. These visits are covered for kids every 6 months. Sealants, which have tremendous preventative benefits, are covered every 2 years.
Beyond that, making services convenient for parents (such as evening and weekend dental hours) and enjoyable for the kids goes a long way. A preventative visit is a fun, easy visit. And it builds trust between the child and the dentist, starting them on a good long-term health path
Q: What might not be known?
The State of California mandates a dental screening for all kids before kindergarten/first grade.
Regular at-home hygiene and diet (e.g. more water and less juice) has a lasting impact on oral health
Caring for baby teeth is also important