Brighter Smiles: Dentistry in the News – Part 2

Tuesday March 26, 2024

Last week I discussed some of the content that was presented in a recent U.S. News & World Report which featured seven pages of information on dentistry. This is a continuation of that.
One of the columns in this section of the report entitled, “Guarding Kids’ First Choppers”, mentions that childhood tooth decay is “the most prevalent chronic disease in children”. This is true. According to the report, 28 percent of preschoolers have dental decay. There are many factors that contribute to dental decay, including poor dietary habits and insufficient oral hygiene. This increase is not only in preschoolers but right through high school.
However, the column goes on to say that “dental visits should begin no later than a child’s first birthday”. That might be a little early, but certainly can’t hurt. However, parents should closely inspect their children’s teeth. If there is anything that is seen that is not tooth-colored or doesn’t look right, the child should be seen by a dentist. Pediatric dentists are one option but many general family dentists are more than willing to see children. If there are issues that warrant a pediatric specialist, the child can be referred.
Having said that, there are many newer lines of thinking in regards to child development. Things such as tongue attachments (tongue tie) should be evaluated early, as this is often a relatively easy fix. Earlier orthodontic intervention, to aid in better dental development and airway health, is also a newer trend. These are things that need to be evaluated by someone who is qualified in that specific area, which is often an airway-minded pediatric dentist, general dentist and orthodontist.
Another column in the report entitled, “The Wisdom on Wisdom Teeth”, says “the latest data suggests that as many as 80 percent of people will develop problems with their wisdom teeth”. This is true. In most people, wisdom teeth either will not fit with all of the other teeth in the mouth or they erupt crowded. This may not cause a problem right away, but because they are difficult to clean, they either get decay or cause periodontal problems with the neighboring teeth. The current line of thinking is to remove these teeth between the ages of 16-18, or before the roots are fully developed. This generally makes for a much less traumatic surgery.
In the article entitled, “Taking the Cost Out of the Bite”, it is discussed what to do if you don’t have dental insurance. One of the suggestions is “to consider purchasing an individual dental policy”, and the other is to look for discount programs which “give members 10 to 60 percent off at certain providers”. This is tricky. If you don’t get dental insurance from your employer or are not covered under a spouse’s plan, you really have to look at the numbers and also at what you are entitled to with particular plans. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The cost of purchasing your own indemnity dental insurance plan usually outweighs the benefits. Most, if not all dental insurance plans have annual maximums which average $1000 per year. You pay the premium to the insurance company, which might be $750 a year, but then you only get $1000 in benefits. It may make sense for families but usually not for individuals. As far as the “discount plans” the column refers to – this is a buyer beware. These plans force you to choose a dentist from a list, and this list is usually not very long. It is important to consider the quality of care, or at least the level of care you desire.
Dental health is important to overall health on many different levels. Make it a priority
Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. He has a special interest in treating snoring, sleep apnea and TMJ problems. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at

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