By Susan Braden
Oral health problems cause American children to lose more than 51 million hours of school each year, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. In California, one out of every four kids age 11 and under has never even been to a dentist. Financial hardship and poor health care coverage seems to be the most common culprit, and dental discount plans may help reverse this trend.
The study, published in the journal “Health Affairs,” found that disparities existed across race and ethnicity as well. Regardless of policy or discount, African American and Latino children in California were less likely to have seen a dentist in the last six months, and in many cases they had never visited one in their lives.
This study found that kids within public insurance programs saw a dentist less frequently than those under private policies. Based on the results of their analysis, researchers raised concern about Medicaid’s ability to provide an appropriate discount and helpful access to oral care across financial and racial diversities.
“The findings suggest that having insurance isn’t always enough,” said researcher Nadereh Pourat, Ph.D., research planning director at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. However, the study shows that any form of dental coverage still increases the probability that a child will visit a dentist. Only 12% of California children without insurance actually saw a dentist within the last six months, the study shows, whereas 27% of publicly insured children and 54% of children on private policies went to a dentist.
Insurance helps kids and their families afford to keep strong teeth, but sometimes it is not enough. Dental discount plans, an alternative to dental insurance, may be the answer for some, since plan members usually do not have to deal with maximums, deductibles or premiums, and prices are often less expensive than traditional policies. Families in difficult financial situations may find a discount plan helpful in maintaining oral health and preventing tooth decay in their kids' mouths.