The Why, Who, and When of that first visit.
Will it be covered by the AFFORDABLE CARE ACT (ACA)?
Just about everyone can list a few reasons WHY good dental care is essential. As a parent, you are aware from your own experience, good or bad, how vital oral health can be. As with most conditions prevention, is better (and cheaper) than cure. And prevention starts early in life.
“Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood. If left untreated, tooth decay can have serious consequences including problems with eating, speaking, and learning”. Division of Oral Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
A recent multivariate analysis found that children with poor oral health miss more school days and receive lower grades than children with good oral health. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Oral health care needs to start very early in our lives. We give some helpful pointers later, but first, we will deal with the “when and what” questions.
As a rule-of-thumb, plan for your first visit with the appearance of your child’s first tooth, between 4-7 months. Early or late teething is not an issue (sometimes, children are born with teeth) but, visit your dentist before their first birthday.
Now, before we go any further, let’s deal with the question of cost. All ACA-compliant health insurance plans include preventive dental services for children such as:
- Regular teeth cleanings and fluoride treatment
- Oral health screenings and dental examinations
- Tooth X-rays
- Oral surgery
- Sedation for surgery
Note. The ACA mandates these services. They are free, but only when delivered by a dentist in your plan’s network. You have the choice of network and metal level.
If your premium payments are up-to-date, you will incur no charges, including co-pays and co-insurance for preventive oral screening and treatment for dependents up to age 19.
There is the first WHO-your in-network dentist. Some dentists, pediatric dentists, are specialists in the oral treatment of the very young. In some rare instances, your dentist may suggest that you visit a specialist but only do so with their written agreement. That is a second “Who,” the pediatric specialist,
There is a third “Who,” and that is you!
Even before the first teeth appear, you can help ensure that your child has the best chance of healthy oral development. The greatest enemies are sugar and bacteria that cause cavities.
Reduce the risk by wiping your baby’s teeth twice daily, using a soft clean cloth. Do this after the first and last feeds of the day to wipe away the sugar and bacteria
When the first teeth appear, continue with the same routine but use a soft, small-bristled toothbrush and plain water.
By your baby’s first birthday, visit your dentist to spot signs of problems early.
Now that we know if you have an ACA-compliant health insurance plan, your child’s dental treatment is free of any additional charges. Your provider is your dentist or physician. If recommended, you have access to a specialist pediatric dentist. We know that our first visit to the dentist should come after the first tooth appeared and our first birthday.
We come back to the question of “Why.”
Why is the first visit so important?
The primary cause of tooth decay is cavities. Cavities are the consequence of bacteria in the mouth from birth. The bacteria thrive on sugar, the major attraction of sugary foods and fizzy drinks. It is almost impossible to avoid consuming sugar (especially by infants and young children). We can reduce the damage by keeping the mouth free from excess sugar and bacteria. First, avoiding over-sweetened (sugar-free, good luck with that!) and encouraging proper oral hygiene.
You can build the child’s defense with fluoride varnish (applied by your dentist), which protects the surface of the teeth from bacterial action. If recommended by your dentist, fluoride varnish can be applied to teeth when they appear. Fluoride toothpaste has a similar effect, but it is not usually appropriate for children less than two years.
Take advantage of your ACA-compliant plan and visit your dentist. If you do not have a plan, you should review your new situation in time to enroll during the next Open Enrollment.
Below a certain income level (depending on your state), you can apply for Medicaid (a Federal/state-funded program). The program ensures you and your dependents of free access to essential healthcare.