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From buying book bags to coordinating carpools, the parental back-to-school to-do list runs deep. And
Health Net, Inc. (NYSE: HNT) reminds parents that, high on that list, should be an entry that’s often forgotten: making dental-checkup appointments for their children.
“It’s really important that parents make good dental health a high priority in their children’s lives,” explains Robert Shechet, D.D.S., director of dental programs for Health Net. “What many people don’t realize is that children who don’t receive appropriate dental care can grow up to become adults with poor dental health. And poor dental health can lead to heart attacks, strokes, premature or low-weight babies, diabetes complications and other serious medical issues.”
Shechet also noted that youngsters who are experiencing tooth or gum pain may have difficulty concentrating and performing well in school.
In an effort to avoid these negative outcomes, Health Net is using the back-to-school season as an opportunity to remind parents that it recommends children see a dentist twice a year for general checkups and cleanings. Health Net also is sharing simple tips for healthy teeth.
“We’re very committed to children’s dental health,” says Shechet. “That’s why we recently added dental visits to Health Net’s Kids and Teens Challenge program. Members who are age 20 or younger – and who’ve had a dental visit with a Health Net dental provider – can call 1-800-804-6074 and enter into a weekly drawing for a $50 gift card.”
Shechet further pointed out that – in California – children starting public school for the first time (at kindergarten or first grade) must have a dental checkup by May 31 of their first school year. As part of this legal requirement, the treating dentist must sign a form that then must be submitted to the child’s school.
Tips for Healthy Teeth
Establishing good dental hygiene habits early on is key to long-term dental health. Toward this end, the following tips are recommended by the American Dental Association:
Brush – Brush your teeth at least twice per day: after breakfast and before bedtime. Another good time to brush is after eating snacks.
Tools – Use fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Replace your toothbrush, or electric-toothbrush head, every three months; sooner, if the bristles become frayed. A child’s toothbrush tends to wear out quicker than an adult’s and needs to be replaced more often.
Technique – Hold your toothbrush at a slight angle against your teeth; brush with short, back-and-forth motions. Brush the top and side surfaces of your teeth, as well as your tongue and gum lines.
Floss – Floss daily. Start with about 18 inches of dental floss; wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand, and stretch the remaining floss around the middle finger on the other hand, leaving about one inch to floss your first tooth. Using your thumbs and forefingers, pull the floss from the gum line to the top of the tooth. Unwind fresh floss as you move from tooth to tooth.
Food – Cut down on food and drinks that are high in acid, such as sodas. High levels of acid can erode the outer surface (enamel) of your teeth.
Good Dental Health from the Start
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, with more than 40 percent of American youngsters experiencing tooth decay before the age of 5. To avoid this outcome, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) encourages parents to bring their children to a pediatric dentist by the time their first tooth appears. The AAPD additionally points to studies showing that dental costs for children who have their first dental visit before age 1 are 40 percent lower during the first five years than for those who do not see a dentist prior to their first birthday.