Children’s Dental Visits Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

Researchers at the C S Mott Children’s Hospital at Michigan Medicine conducted a national poll in January in an effort to understand what is happening to children’s dental health -- particularly children’s preventive dental care - during the COVID-19 pandemic. asian boy with dentist - SM - paid - shutterstock 1730214226

 

Safety of Visiting a Dentist During the Pandemic

Those polled were parents of children ages 3 - 18 were asked how they felt about taking their children to a dentist. 

  1. ⅔ felt it was safe to get pediatric preventive care during the pandemic

  2. 19% were uncertain

  3. 14% believed it was unsafe.

 

What Happened When They Tried to Make an Appointment?

40% had not tried to get a preventive care appointment during the pandemic. Of these parents

40% were trying to protect their children from COVID-19 and 28%did not make an appointment because their children were not experiencing dental problems at the time.

 

The 60% of parents who tried to make an appointment for preventive care encountered challenges:

  • ⅓ said it was harder to get preventive care

  • 24% faced a delay when trying to make an appointment

Another 7% of parents said they were unable to get an appointment for their children when they tried. This was the case mostly for parents with Medicaid (15%). It was true for only 4% of those with private dental benefits and 5% of those with no insurance.

 

There Was Also Good News

More than 25% of the parents polled said their child had improved in at least one aspect of oral care since the beginning of the pandemic. These changes were mostly related to brushing, flossing, and avoiding sugary drinks: 

  • 16% were brushing more often

  • 11% were flossing more often

  • 9% were using fluoride rinse more often

  • 15% were drinking fewer sugary beverages.

All of these changes, of course, help to prevent tooth decay. 

 

Why Do Preventive Visits Matter So Much for Children?

There are many reasons that preventive dental visits are important for children. Among the most common reasons for dental care are these:

  • To prevent cavities and tooth decay.

  • To remove accumulated tartar and plaque.

  • To deal with small problems before they become bigger, more painful, or more costly to fix.

  • Good oral health supports good general health.

  • To teach a child that oral health is important.

  • Children who have checkups are more likely to have a more positive attitude about visiting the dentist. 

 

Sources: Dr Bicuspid (drbicuspid.com); C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at Michigan Medicine