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COVID-19 making it difficult for parents to find dental care for kids, poll finds


By GMA Team, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — One in three parents say COVID-19 has made it hard to get dental care for their child, according to a new poll.

The poll’s findings show just one of the ripple effects the coronavirus pandemic is having on children’s health, according to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a board-certified OBGYN and ABC News chief medical correspondent.

“It’s important to always think of the indirect consequences of this pandemic and the effect that it has particularly on children,” Ashton said Monday on Good Morning America. “We think of dental health as different than physical health, but it’s really not. It’s a critical part.”

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

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, some dental offices have changed the way they operate to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

More than 20% of parents said they experienced a delay in trying to schedule dental care since the pandemic started, while 7% of parents say they were unable to get an appointment at all, according to the poll released Monday by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan.

Around 40% of parents reported not trying at all to get dental care for their child since the pandemic started, with reasons ranging from not wanting to risk being exposed to COVID-19 to their dentist’s office only seeing urgent patients, according to the poll.

Both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Dental Association (ADA) have had guidelines on dental safety in place since early on in the pandemic.

The top guideline issued by both organizations is for dental practitioners to “fully utilize” personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect both themselves and patients.

“To be crystal clear, you really don’t want to avoid or delay dental care,” said Ashton. “It is critically important.”

Cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the U.S. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning, according to the CDC.

Children who have poor oral health often miss school more often and receive lower grades than children with better oral health, notes the CDC.

Amid the difficulties in obtaining dental care during the pandemic, there is good news from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital poll.

Parents also reported making changes at home to improve their child’s oral health habits, including more frequent brushing and flossing, more frequent use of fluoride rinse and less drinking of sugary beverages, according to the poll.

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