September Smiles: Common Dental Questions Parents Ask During Back-to-School Season


 
This year's back-to-school season looks a lot different than it has in years past. Whether your child is attending class with a mask on or they're logging onto the computer to learn, there are a lot of changes to which your family will need to adjust.


Your child's teeth can also undergo a lot of changes at a rapid rate. And while many schools are taking steps to keep students safe, parents also need to do their part to protect their children's health. Aside from following CDC guidelines, you'll also want to keep up with other health needs -- including dental care. Here are just a few of the most common questions parents might ask during back-to-school season pertaining to their child's smile, along with their answers.


Should I Schedule a Back-to-School Dental Checkup For My Child?

Typically, dental visits should take place every six months. Thanks to the pandemic, many families have delayed or canceled preventative care appointments for a variety of reasons. But if it's been longer than six months since your child has seen a dentist or it's getting close to the six-month mark, this is a great time to schedule a dental check-up. It's often easier to keep track of when appointments should take place if they're signaled by other events (like going back to school). While your pediatric dentist should send you appointment reminders and encourage you to make future appointments at the end of a visit, it never hurts to think of the back-to-school season as the back-to-the-dentist season!


How Can I Help My Child Stay Cavity-Free?

Cavities aren't exactly uncommon, but parents understandably want to do everything they can to prevent tooth decay for their children. Since one-third of all Americans are unhappy with their teeth, it pays to start taking care of your smile early on. Scheduling regular dental visits can help prevent cavities, as can participating in proper brushing and flossing at home. Be sure to demonstrate excellent dental habits yourself for your kids to emulate! You should also follow a diet that's full of fresh fruits and vegetables and that limits sugary, sticky, and salty snacks. As a family, be sure to drink lots of water rather than juice, soda, or energy drinks. By following these simple steps, every member of your household can have healthier teeth and gums.


Does My Child Need Braces? And If So, When Should They Get Them?

Not every child needs braces, but many can benefit from orthodontic treatment. Only a trained orthodontist can definitively say whether your child needs braces, but you may want to make an appointment if your child exhibits early loss of baby teeth, has difficulty chewing, has sucked their thumb, shows signs of misplaced or crowded teeth, or has other jaw- or tooth-related issues. Since abnormal bites usually become noticeable when a child is between the ages of six and 12, orthodontic treatment often begins between ages eight and 14. Keep the lines of communication open with your dentist, who may be able to recommend an orthodontist (or provide this treatment themselves, if they are trained to do so) at the appropriate time.


What Should I Do If My Child is Afraid of the Dentist?

Dental fears are common among both kids and adults. If this will be your child's first trip to the dentist, it's important to not let your own dentist-related anxieties creep into their experience. Let them know what they can expect from dental visits and make sure they know you'll be right there with them if they need you. When a child has been to the dentist before and their fears are getting the best of them, it's best to address this early on in life so that they won't have any barriers to obtaining excellent dental treatment later. Your dentist may have some tips that can help ease your child's anxieties. In some cases, sedation dentistry may be an appropriate way to go. In others, activities like meditation or having a reward to look forward to can work wonders.


Back-to-School Season Can Be Expensive. How Can I Keep Dental Costs Manageable?

Around one-third of American families struggle to pay medical bills, according to the CDC. Even with health insurance, many medical visits can be expensive. And since dental care is not included in many health insurance plans, many families are forced to eschew regular dental care due to costs. However, regardless of whether you have dental insurance, there are some ways to make caring for your child's teeth more affordable. 


For example, you can check out lower-cost dental clinics or dental schools in your area. Many organizations also hold low-cost dental days a couple of times a year that make preventative care a more feasible option for many families. You can also ask your dentist about whether they might offer discounts or payment plans. Don't wait until after the first visit to discuss costs, either. While it might not be the most comfortable conversation, most dental offices will be more than happy to talk to you about the costs of care to ensure regular treatment is manageable. Be sure to look over coverage limits and ask your insurance company about what's covered each year, as well, since you won't want to be surprised at the last minute.


With so many other stresses to deal with, you may have put your child's back-to-school dental appointment on the back burner. But keeping up with dental care can be a great way to protect your child's health. Now that you know the answers to these common questions, you can make your child's next appointment with confidence and help them care for their teeth in the interim.


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