Delta Dental of Illinois encourages dental checkup before school begins

More than 40% of Illinois students suffer from tooth decay.

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (July 27, 2020) — As Illinois schools prepare to resume classes this fall — whether that be in person, remote or a hybrid approach — parents should make sure their kids are healthy and well to start the school year right. That includes a visit to the dentist for a checkup before classes begin.

“While we’ve all focused these past few months on social distancing, handwashing and wearing face masks, it’s also important to continue practicing preventive oral health care,” said Dr. Sheila Strock, vice president, dental services and science officer at Delta Dental of Illinois. “Going to the dentist is safe and will help detect oral health issues that may affect your child’s attendance, grades and overall performance in school.” 

Tooth decay continues to be one of the most common chronic childhood conditions, affecting 2 in 5 Illinois children. The problem gets worse when cavities are left untreated, which is the case among 22% of students. An estimated 5,600 Illinois third graders suffer from dental pain, swelling or infection — a rate that has doubled in the last five years.1

Oral health problems can take a toll on the whole family. More than 2 in 5 parents nationwide said they had to deal with their child’s unplanned oral health issue last year —leading 28% of children to miss school while parents missed an average of 7 hours of work.2 Students’ grades also suffered: One study showed that those with tooth pain were four times more likely to have a grade-point average below the median of 2.8.3

Poor oral health can not only hurt children’s performance in school but also their overall health and well-being, quality of life and later success. That’s because cavities and other dental problems can be a distraction, make it more difficult to concentrate and affect students’ self-esteem, relationships and ability to succeed.4

Importance of preventive care

“The good news is that tooth decay is nearly 100% preventable,” Strock said. “Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, eating a well-balanced diet, choosing water over sugary drinks and visiting the dentist regularly can all help prevent cavities.”

During a routine dental exam, the dentist and dental hygienist will clean your child’s teeth and check for any oral health problems including cavities and gum disease. An examination of the mouth can not only reveal the condition of your kids’ oral health but will also provide clues on whether they’re having any problems with their overall health.5

Illinois requires routine dental checkups for all children in kindergarten and grades 2, 6 and 9. Yet some students aren’t getting these checkups. Nearly 1 in 3 Illinois students have failed to receive their required school dental exams in previous years.6

“We can’t emphasize enough how important these checkups are,” Strock said. “Prevention is key to reducing and eliminating tooth decay, which can make a big difference for your kids’ overall health and well-being. If your child has not visited the dentist this year, we encourage you to schedule an appointment today.”

What to expect at an upcoming dental visit

During the COVID-19 pandemic, your child’s dental checkup may have been delayed. Dentists have added safety measures to ensure that you and your kids get the vital care you need, including routine cleanings and exams.

“Patient safety and infection control have always been top priorities for dental practices for the health of patients and staff,” Strock said. “Today, dentists are taking extra steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 following state and national guidelines.”

Ask your dental office about added safety measures so you and your children know what to expect. Some differences you may see include:

  • Social distancing: You may not have as many options for appointment times, which help dental practices limit the number of people in the office. You may be asked to fill out paperwork online in advance. You may also be asked to wait in your car before your appointment and you may not be able to go into the clinic with your child unless they need assistance.
  • Screening: Upon arrival, your child may have their temperature taken. You may also be asked screening questions to ensure you and your child don’t have COVID-19 symptoms the day of the appointment.
  • Patient safety and protection: Your child may need to wash their hands before treatment, and they may see additional dividers throughout the dental office. Staff may be wearing face masks and shields.
  • Procedures: Your child’s treatment may be modified to reduce airborne particles, such as hand-polishing their teeth instead of using an ultrasonic cleaning. Ask your dental office for details of these potential changes, and how you’ll be notified if your child needs additional dental work.

About Delta Dental of Illinois

Delta Dental is the national dental benefits leader covering 1 in 3 Americans who have dental insurance. Delta Dental of Illinois is one of 39 member companies that make up the national Delta Dental system. Based in Naperville, Illinois, Delta Dental of Illinois provides dental benefit programs to more than 6,000 Illinois companies and covers 2 million individuals, employees and family members nationwide. Delta Dental of Illinois is committed to improving oral health in our community and furthers this commitment through the work of Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation.

1 Illinois Department of Public Health, Healthy Smiles Healthy Growth 2018-2019

2 2019 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey

3 American Journal of Public Health

4 National Maternal & Child Oral Health Resource Center

5 Mayo Clinic

6 Illinois State Board of Education