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TX Dentists Urge Keeping Kids' Healthy, Despite COVID

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Dentists have observed that by the time children are five years old, nearly 50% have at least one cavity. (renatalferro/Pixabay)
Dentists have observed that by the time children are five years old, nearly 50% have at least one cavity. (renatalferro/Pixabay)
 By Roz Brown - Producer, Contact
February 17, 2021

DALLAS - Texas dentist says parents who cancelled their children's appointments due to COVID-19 need to get back on track to prevent kids' tooth decay.

Dr. Matt Roberts, who chairs the Texas Dental Association's Council on Legislative, Regulatory and Governmental Affairs, said personal protective equipment used in dental offices should help patients feel more comfortable about returning. Roberts, who practices dentistry in Crockett, said preventive care will keep children out of a hospital emergency room where people could be treating COVID patients.

"With the kiddos, a small cavity can become a big one in four to five months," he said, "so they can go from being fairly calm and comfortable to being in an acute problem very quickly."

The American Dental Association has said dental-care spending in the United States declined by about 38% in 2020, with an additional 20% slump expected this year. February is Children's Dental Health Month, which the ADA sees as a good reminder to book appointments with your child's dentist.

Health professionals have emphasized the importance of keeping immune systems in top shape during the pandemic. That applies to oral hygiene, according to Richard Gesker, chief dental officer for UnitedHealthcare, who said poor dental care invites poor overall health.

"It's not separate from the rest of the body," he said. "Good oral health leads to good systemic health, and you need a balance of both."

Roberts said many dental offices in Texas closed at the beginning of the pandemic, but now that they've reopened, it's important not to skip routine visits.

"We screen our patients when they come into the office, and I think that's important to know," he said. "We take temperature, we ask them a battery of questions, COVID-related, and there have been times we've asked patients to reschedule; we do not overbook."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that there also are correlations between oral health and mental-health conditions, such as stress, depression and loneliness.

A study on COVID and cavities is online at nextsmiledental.com.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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