COVID-19 is making it harder for parents to find dental care for kids

1 in 3 parents say COVID-19 has made it more difficult to book appointments for their kids, according to a new study.

COVID-19 is making it harder for parents to find dental care for kids
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One in three parents say that COVID-19 is making it harder to find dental care for their kids.

It's just one more way that the coronavirus pandemic is impacting our kids' health.

The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health surveyed over 1,880 parents nationwide.

Sixty percent of parents have tried to book a dental appointment for their child since the pandemic started. In most cases, parents were able to get an appointment within their usual timeframe (69%). Many were only able to schedule their child's appointment after a lengthy delay, though (24%). 7% of parents said they weren't able to schedule an appointment at all.

Some parents found that their dental office had closed or was only open for emergency visits, not preventative care appointments (23%).

Parents have also pointed to issues with their insurance for not scheduling appointments. More parents of children with Medicaid dental coverage (15%) say they were unable to get an appointment, compared to those with private insurance (4%) or no coverage (5%).

Forty percent of parents haven't tried booking a dentist appointment for their child in the past year. Of that group, most parents said they didn't want to risk exposing their child to COVID-19 (40%). Others said their child wasn't due for a preventative appointment in the past year (23%) or wasn't having any dental problems (28%).

The American Association of Pediatric Dentists recommends that children receive regular teeth cleaning and examination every six months, beginning when their first tooth comes in.

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Look, we get it: when the pandemic started, we had to change nearly every aspect of how we parented. Schooling moved to remote learning, personal tutors or pandemic pods. Many doctor visits were canceled or moved to a virtual format. Family celebrations, holiday traditions, extracurricular activities, therapies, playdates—all canceled or adapted to fit this new pandemic life.

It's been hard keeping track of changing guidance when it comes to the schedules and operations of businesses and organizations, too. Do I need a mask to go to this store? Can I take my toddler if he refuses to wear one? Is that store open on a regular schedule? What about this business? Will my doctor even see me for this appointment?

We've juggled so much this year, with the main priority of keeping our kids safe. It makes sense why parents would put off a preventative care dentist appointment, especially if they're worried about exposing their kids to COVID-19.

Health officials want you to know that they're doing everything they can to keep your family safe. If you tried to make a dentist appointment for your child this year and couldn't, experts hope you'll try again. It's possible that your clinic was closed to preventative care appointments six months ago but is now open for all visits.

If you're still on the fence about possibly contracting COVID-19 at a dentist visit, officials encourage you to call your local dentist's office and explain your concerns. Staff members should be able to explain their new policies and how they intend to keep your child safe.

There is good news, too. 1 in 4 parents say their child's oral health habits have improved since the pandemic started. Kids are brushing (16%) and flossing (11%) more. They're also drinking sugary drinks less often (15%).

If you're unable to get an appointment for your child, the best thing you can do is make sure you're modeling healthy dental care at home.

You got this, mama.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

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