Dental Homes Help Prevent Early Childhood Caries, Promote Lifelong Oral Health
The concept of “dental homes” is fairly new. The idea has been around for less than 20 years. Briefly, a dental home is “a place where children can receive consistent, comprehensive, compassionate dental care.” That definition comes from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). Their mission, in part, is to “advance optimal oral health for all children.”
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Action for Dental Health Act of 2017 (HR 2422). The vote was 387-13 in favor of the bill. If passed by congress and signed into law, it would provide “the establishment of dental homes for children and adults, including for the aged, blind, and disabled populations.”
The growing dental home movement is great news for Americans. Early childhood caries (ECC) is the term dentist’s use to discuss kid’s cavities. Recent studies show that, compared to just a few years back, U.S. kids have fewer cavities or “dental caries” today.” Nevertheless, ECC remains the top chronic disease among 6-19 year-olds according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Dental homes may help change that.
The Costs of Cavities
To some parents, cavities in baby teeth may not seem like a big deal. However, when children don’t have their first dentist visit until after age three, it can lead to higher dental costs down the road. Hence, the importance of early, consistent care.
Scientific evidence backs the benefits of taking kids to the dentist at an early age. Starting dentist visits early is not only cost effective; research shows it can help prevent future oral health problems.
A number of factors — demographic, socioeconomic, cultural — can lead to irregular dental visits among children. Whatever the reasons, however, cavities carry costs for kids, families, and society, according to the AAPD.
The costs associated with ECC include effects on kids’ development, school performance, and behavior. For example, suffering from ECC can lead to inappropriate use of pain meds and missed days at school. It can also lead to poor self-esteem and bullying.
Dealing with ECC can also put stress on parents and other family members. Caregivers may need to miss work. The costs for travel and childcare may become problematic and add to stress. Other family members’ eating, sleeping, and well-being may be affected. ECC also affects society because of the related misuse of hospital emergency resources and costs related to admission, treatment and discharge.
Dental Homes Help Prevent Early Childhood Caries
The best way to prevent ECC is to start early and stay consistent. That’s why dental homes directly address the need to face oral health issues proactively. The aim is to help ensure that children’s oral health care “is delivered in a comprehensive, continuously accessible, coordinated and family-centered way by a licensed dentist,” according to the AAPD.
For this reason, the AAPD places great emphasis on making sure children see the dentist by age one. Starting with routine dental visits by age one helps dentists help children and their parents to start on the right foot, so to speak. Unfortunately, children who have their first visit after the age of three often have higher dental costs later.
Dental homes can help boost dental professionals’ ability to start children on the road toward optimum oral health throughout their lives. That is why many dental homes begin with an age one dental visit. It helps to set the stage for successful preventive oral health care and treatment. In addition, it lays down the basis for a lifelong focus on oral health.
Dental Homes Help Promote Lifelong Oral Health
One of the top reasons people avoid the dentist is fear. Dental homes help set the stage for a lifelong commitment to regular, professional dental care without fear and anxiety.
Fear of dentistry, fears about receiving dental care, and even fear of dental professionals are very familiar conditions. Both adults and children may have these types of feelings from time to time. However, starting routine oral care early in a dental home setting can help kids feel comfortable and relaxed during dental visits.
The trend toward “dental homes” can help kids develop positive, healthy relationships with dentists and other dental professionals. It’s also a great way for parents to help kids get on track to keep their teeth healthy at home, for life.
Read next: What is a Dental Health Aide Therapist (DHAT)?