Even though measures have been made to help more and more people receive healthcare, many people still struggle to pay for it. In fact, many families may just take the tax penalty instead since some premiums are too high! To make matters more complicated, some policies don’t even cover dental, and some people think that that aspect of healthcare isn’t quite as important.
While better dental education is certainly in order, what can be done to help low-income families receive care? There are many possibilities, according to one study:
Utah Kids Score Poorly on Oral Healthcare
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
While the study, again, has some good strategies, the first (Increasing access to dental insurance and care) seems a bit obvious. How do we do that? One way is for dental offices to be more flexible and creative with their payment plans. Another way is for families to visit dental schools, which provide quality care and affordability for the price of time due to the work being conducted by students.
However, a study presented by Lori Roniger has another idea. The authors of the study were looking at the cost-effectiveness of sealant programs (which were also recommended in the previous Utah study). The authors of the study assume that since many low-income families will not have access to restorative care any time soon, that the best way for long-term dental health is through preventative means.
Since many children–not just ones from low-income families–suffer from cavities, dental sealants are a fantastic preventative measure:
3 Reasons to Consider Sealants for Your Child
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.
Because sealants don’t take a long time to place, many school districts with low-income families are able to provide this service for children. And even if your school district doesn’t provide this service, saving money for it would be well worth it since the sealants last so long and provide enamel protection.
In fact, the study that showed that sealant programs were cost effective also found that if about 1000 kids had sealants, then that would potentially reduce almost 500 fillings and over 130 toothaches annually! Although restorations are wonderful blessings, nothing can replace the strength of enamel. Plus, if families cannot see the dentist often, then preventative procedures are key.