Dentist offices aren’t exactly the most magical place for children, although many of us do try to liven the experience with toy-filled waiting areas and a special prize from the “treasure box” at the end of the appointment. But like veggies and vitamins, dentist visits are a childhood necessity that will benefit kids in the long run—which is why it’s so shocking that nine percent of kids in California have never visited the dentist once.
Dental care by county
According to data from the California Health Interview Survey, nine percent of children between the ages of 2 to 11 in 2013-14 had never been to a dentist. But when broken out by county, some had results that far exceeded the state average.
San Joaquin County topped the list with 28 percent of young children never having a shot at that treasure box, while Shasta County’s rate was 19 percent and Fresno County’s rate was 18 percent.
At least 10 percent of children hadn’t visited a dentist in over 12 additional counties, including Santa Clara County, Sacramento County, and Los Angeles County. San Bernardino County had the lowest rate at 1 percent, while here in San Diego County, the rate was 7 percent.
Baby teeth need love too
It might be easy to dismiss early childhood dental care because “it’s only baby teeth,” but untreated dental problems such as cavities and gum disease can affect children of any age, negatively impacting the overall health and quality of life by causing pain, sleep problems, nutritional issues, and impaired concentration.
The most common chronic disease among children ages 6 to 18 is tooth decay, and if dental problems are not caught and treated early, they can result in more serious and expensive procedures down the road.
The most vulnerable face the most risks
In a perfect world healthy teeth would be the norm, but oral diseases disproportionately affect certain children, including those from low-income families, children of color, and uninsured children. That’s why the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes dental health care for children in the list of “essentials” that must be covered by all qualified insurance plans.
Unfortunately, California’s Denti-Cal program is in desperate need of an overhaul, after a scathing report from a bipartisan oversight committee found the program falls “disastrously” short of helping low-income children.
Help foster a positive relationship with the dentist
As parents, when it comes to dental visits, one the best things you can do for your children is to show enthusiasm for the experience. Instead of groaning about how you dread going to the dentist, try saying things like, “I can’t wait to feel my clean teeth after we see the dentist!” and “I hope the dentist notices how well I’ve been brushing.”
Your enthusiasm will help your child foster a positive relationship with the dentist. And that relationship will provide incentive for great oral hygiene practices and make it much easier to get your child to dental appointments.
Twice a year is best!
Remember, along with a healthy diet and daily brushing and flossing, the best way to care for your children’s teeth is to provide them with regular exams by a dentist. At Town Center Dentistry in San Diego, we recommend appointments twice a year to catch cavities and other potential dental issues long before they turn into dental nightmares. So if it’s been over six months since your last appointment, call now!