Children are always at high risk of tooth decay, especially since they love eating sweets and other junk food. Unfortunately, in some lower-income families, they lack the resources and access to better and healthier food. Worse, they may not have the same opportunities to visit the dentist regularly. This is one of the reasons why they are considered high-risk and high-need, those who truly need the care of a dental professional.
The Serious Consequences Of Tooth Decay
When high-need children have tooth decay, they are more likely to remain untreated. When it does, it can affect their overall health, as well as make it more difficult to eat, talk, sleep, learn, and socialize. It may affect their confidence, especially when their teeth appear rotten.
The worst-case scenario is when bacteria from a tooth abscess reach the brain and lead to death, which is not as uncommon as one may think. From 2008 to 2010, more than 100 people went to the emergency room related to dental problems and passed away. The sad truth is, these deaths could have been completely avoided with regular preventive care from a dentist. Tooth decay can be fully avoided with the right oral habits.
Preventative Services For High-need Children
Many parents of low-income families have a long list of reasons why they are unable to bring their children to the dentist for regular check-up treatment. Of course, cost is at the top of the list, but even with the existence of dentists accepting Medicaid, not more than 40% of kids living in poverty have received any care from a dental professional.
One of the best ways to improve dental health and avoid tooth decay is by having dental sealants attached to the teeth of these high-need children. A sealant is a plastic coating painted into molars, where children are most likely to have cavities. This procedure takes only a few minutes and costs only a third of the cost of fillings.
For less than $50, a sealant can be placed on a child’s permanent molar and will reduce the risk of decay by up to 80% in the first 2 years and continue to do so for almost 5 years. Thus, it is the most effective way to prevent tooth decay.
Oral health preventive services will be successful if they expand access to dental sealants. This means children will have an extra layer of protection so that even if they are unable to visit the dentist for a couple of years due to personal reasons, then they will not have cases of advanced tooth decay. By targeting high-need children, tooth decay cases can go down by as much as 60%.
These programs can reduce Medicaid costs when parents bring their children to the dentist. In fact, even schools have similar projects, simply because of the high success rate of preventing tooth decay. Similar services may also be offered by the local or state health department or by other organizations. For more information on how to find preventive oral health service close to where you live, you can read this page.
Many states do not have publicly-funded sealant programs for high-need children or worse, have policies that hinder their success. For example, some states require that a dentist examine the child before a dental sealant can be attached. In fact, a dental hygienist can make the assessment and the procedure to put the sealant in place. Because of these barriers, costs go up and access becomes limited.
Funding is another huge factor to think about. Some states do not allow for dental sealants to be provided in the school system or do not reimburse for mobile dentistry services. Fortunately, this has not stopped oral health preventive services programs from being implemented and helping the children who truly need it.
Even if tooth decay affects non-permanent teeth, it can affect and damage permanent ones later on. Moreover, children who are not taught to value oral health early in life are more likely to continue having issues later in life. Plus, tooth decay can be painful and dangerous to health. Without spending a fortune on each child, there are ways to protect them from these oral problems. The solution exists, and these oral health preventive services are making it accessible to everyone.