Other parents say they didn’t call for an appointment because their child didn’t need dental care or had any dental problems.
Most parents (67%) believe it is safe for their child to get dental care at this stage of the pandemic, while 14% believe it is not safe and 19% are unsure.
Clark recommends parents concerned about COVID exposure contact their child’s dentist to find out what kinds of precautions are in place. These can include patient and staff screenings and temperature checks, and having patients wait in their cars rather than in the waiting room.
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“It can be helpful for dental providers to be proactive in reminding parents of the importance of regular dental checkups for children,” she says. “Recall notices and website updates outlining changes to practice operations can also help more parents feel safe bringing children for their visit.”
Insurance barriers contribute to accessibility to dental care
Barriers to dental appointments are more common among children with Medicaid dental coverage than among those with private dental insurance.
Among parents who tried to bring their child in for preventive dental care, 15% of parents of children with Medicaid dental coverage said they could not get appointments, compared to 4% of those with private dental insurance and 5% who had no coverage. .
Clark notes that even outside of the pandemic, these children often struggle to find a dentist because many providers won’t accept Medicaid payment. Some children receive preventive dental services at schools or public dental clinics, but these services have declined during the pandemic.
Among parents who did not try to schedule a preventive dental appointment, cost was the reason 23% of parents had no dental insurance, compared to very few of those who had private or Medicaid.
“Insurance barriers can lead to unequal opportunities for families to receive essential dental care to keep their children’s teeth healthy,” Clark says.
1 in 4 parents see improvements in child’s oral health habits during pandemic
An unexpected finding from the Mott Poll report was that a quarter of parents reported improvements in their child’s oral health habits during the pandemic.
This included more frequent brushing (16%), flossing (11%) and using fluoride mouthwash (9%) and less consumption of sugary drinks (15%).
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Overall, 28% of parents say their child has made at least one positive change, including more parents of children with Medicaid (37%) or no dental coverage (32%) compared to private dental insurance (24%).
“We were thrilled to find parents describing positive changes in the way their children take care of their teeth at home,” Clark says. “Brushing and flossing daily and avoiding sugary drinks are important ways to prevent tooth decay.
“Parents whose child does not have regular dental checkups should take extra steps to improve daily oral health habits, especially if regular dental care has been delayed or interrupted,” she adds. .