A Third of Parents Say COVID-19 Has Disrupted Their Child’s Dental Care

A third of Parents say the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to get dental care for their children, though some families may face greater challenges than others, according to the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine.
For example, inability to get a dentist appointment during the pandemic was three times as common for children with Medicaid than those with private dental coverage.
“Regular preventive dental care helps keep children’s teeth healthy and allows providers to address any tooth decay or dental problems before they become more serious,” said Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark, MPH.
“Our findings highlight how the pandemic may have disrupted families’ dental care and exasperated potential disparities among those with insurance barriers,” Clark said.
Some parents attempted to continue their child’s regular dental checkups, only to find a lengthy wait time for an appointment, Clark said. Others found that the dental office had closed or reduced patient visits to urgent cases.
But the report revealed a silver lining too, the researchers said, as one in four parents described improvements in how their children are taking care of their teeth and gums at home during the pandemic.
The nationally representative report is based on responses from 1,882 parents with at least one child between the ages of 3 and 18.
The American Association of Pediatric Dentists recommends that children receive regular teeth cleanings and exams every six months, starting when their first tooth comes in.

Checkups provide a consistent opportunity to identify and treat tooth decay, to apply protective treatments like sealants and fluoride varnish, and to educate parents and children about good dental hygiene.
But to protect patients and staff, some dental offices have changed or limited their operations to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Sixty percent of parents in the poll have tried to get preventive dental care for their child since the pandemic started. While most got an appointment in the usual timeframe, 24% experienced a delay, and 7% could not get an appointment at all.
Overall, one in three (32%) feel COVID-19 has made it harder to get preventive dental care for their child.