New Study Finds Children Need Earlier Dental Care

February was Children’s National Dental Health Month and as part of efforts to raise general awareness about dental care in kids, The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) released its second “State of Little Teeth” Report to emphasize key areas of success and improvement for pediatric dental care. As a pediatric dentist, Dr. Baker Chambliss generally encourages children have twice-yearly dental cleanings and dental checkups to maintain good dental health.

In the report, it was found that 74 percent of parents didn’t take kids to the dentist by their first birthday. This becomes an issue for children for several reasons. First, it’s important for young patients to develop a relationship with a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists receive special training that’s specific to children’s dental needs and meeting with a pediatric dentist early allows your child to develop a more comfortable relationship and positive thoughts about visiting the dentist.

Secondly, dental issues go untreated without proper attention, which can impact your child. Although the prevalence of tooth decay has decreased, nearly one in five children under the age of 5 has experienced dental decay. In fact, the report also found that 18% of caries or cavities were in the age group of children ages 2-5 and 9% of those caries were left untreated. Untreated caries can lead to poor school performance, decreased quality of life, poor sleep habits, difficulty chewing, delayed growth, and life-threatening infection.

Paul Casamissimo, D.D.S, M.S, Chief Policy Officer of the AAPD says, “Evidence increasingly suggests that to be successful in preventing caries, we must begin within the first years of life. If appropriate preventive measures are applied early—in infancy—it may be possible to raise a cavity-free child.”

The cost-effectiveness of early dental visits is supported by several follow-up studies. Preventive dental visits before the age of five significantly reduce non-preventive dental visits and expenses associated with non-preventive services. Additionally, after eight years of follow up, children who had their first dental visit before the age of four spent an average of $360 less on dental treatment than those who did not.60 A 2014 systematic review examined the importance of preventive dental visits from a young age. The review concluded that although there are costs associated with preventive services, early preventive dental visits may be associated with reduced restorative dental care visits and related expenses during the first years of life.

Beyond the savings on restorative dental care provided in an office or hospital setting, the prevention of dental disease has the potential to save millions of dollars each year on dental-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations. A study of Iowa Medicaid children under age six treated for early childhood caries in the hospital or ambulatory care setting indicated that fewer than five percent of those receiving dental care consumed 25–45 percent of the dental resources. A similar study from Washington State concluded that 19 percent of their pediatric dental emergencies were related to early childhood caries, and of those, over half were children under 3.5 years. In a survey of hospital-based emergency department visits of children due to dental conditions, more than 200,000 occurred each year with an average cost per visit of $564 and a total charge across the U.S. of over $100 million.

These studies emphasize that early prevention can translate into significant cost-savings for restorative and emergency dental care, especially for those families at or below the poverty level where caries rates are dramatically higher in children three years and younger.

“For parents who think postponing the first dental visit will help their budget, the opposite is more likely. Children who had their first appointment after age four had $1,054 of dental treatments, while children who had their first appointment before age four had $694 of dental treatments during eight years of follow-up.” Arthur J. Nowak, D.M.D., M.A., professor emeritus of pediatric dentistry and pediatrics, University of Iowa Colleges of Medicine and Dentistry.


Learn more @ content/uploads/2019/02/StateofLittleTeeth.2ndEdition.pdf


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