Oral Health Spotlight

Back-to-School Checklist: Don’t Forget to Add Dental Appointments

Delta Dental of Illinois offers tips to help prevent health-related school absences

This school year, Delta Dental of Illinois wants to remind Illinois parents to include a dental appointment on the back-to-school checklist. Having a healthy smile can help improve kids’ concentration and performance in the classroom and may help reduce school absences.

In Illinois, almost 40 percent of children ages 6 to 12 missed school due to an oral health problem in the past 12 months according to a recent Delta Dental of Illinois survey of Illinois parents.1

Oral health issues can distract kids in the classroom, causing them to fall behind in coursework. “Untreated oral health problems can cause discomfort, making it difficult for children to concentrate in school,” said Dr. Sheila Strock, vice president, dental services and science officer at Delta Dental of Illinois. “When a child has serious tooth decay, it can affect overall health and can lead to problems eating, speaking and learning.”

Regular dental checkups help with early detection and treatment of disease, which keeps teeth in check for school readiness and learning. In Illinois, children in kindergarten, second, sixth and ninth grade are required to have a dental exam. Earlier this year, Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation worked with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Representative Anna Moeller and Senator Heather Steans on legislation to amend the Illinois school code to include a dental exam for ninth grade students. Gov. Rauner signed this legislation on August 13, 2018.

“Preventive appointments that check for oral health risk factors should be part of every child’s back-to-school routine,” said Strock. “There are resources available for families without insurance or the funds to pay for kids’ dental care, such as Delta Dental of Illinois’ Dentist by 1 events, which offer free care to children. Families with insurance should check their policies to make sure they are taking advantage of every preventive benefit.”

Children entering kindergarten and any children entering Illinois schools for the first time are also required to have a vision exam. Preventive checks for vision health should not be overlooked.

Delta Dental of Illinois offers the following tips to help make back-to-school health appointments easier:

  • Choose the right doctors. Schedule appointments with a dentist and optometrist who have experience with children and work to create a welcoming environment for children. A family-friendly office can make a doctor’s visit more comfortable and enjoyable for your child.
  • Minimize uncertainty. Make sure children know what to expect before each appointment. Describe what will happen and explain why visiting the dentist and optometrist are just as important for your child’s health as visiting their general doctor. Consider reading fun books about oral health habits, including visiting the dentist, to reinforce why it’s important for kids to take good care of their teeth.
  • Plan a healthy reward. Make the appointments more exciting for kids by offering to do a fun, healthy activity afterward, like a family bike ride or a trip for frozen yogurt.
  • Set a positive example. Make sure your kids know that you visit the dentist and optometrist. Doctor visits can be scary for some kids, but showing them that you’re not afraid can help. Confidently talk about your experiences and how you stay calm during visits.

1Kelton, a leading global insights firm, conducted the 2018 Delta Dental of Illinois Children’s Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted statewide via email with 150 Illinois parents of children ages 12 and under. For results based on the total sample of Illinois adults, the margin of error is +/- 8% at a 95 percent confidence level.

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