Reason to smile: more Utah children expected to see the dentist

More children across Utah and the nation are expected to gain dental care, since it is an essential benefit under the Affordable Care Act. Photo credit: Carl Wycoff

SALT LAKE CITY – It is the most common chronic childhood disease.

But across Utah – and the nation – there are new requirements that could help to take a bite out of tooth decay among children. 

Pediatric <a href=”” target=”parent”>dental care</a> is one of the essential benefits under the <a href=”” target=”parent”>Affordable Care Act</a> (ACA), meaning childhood dental care must be offered, whether it’s part of a health plan or as an optional stand-alone. 

That should help get more children in the chair, says Dr. Paul Reggiardo, spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

“We estimate the number at somewhere probably around 16 million children who do not have access to dental benefits,” he says. “And lack of dental benefits is a real barrier to care for a lot of families, and for a lot of children.”

As a result of the ACA, it’s estimated that as many as 8.7 million people age 21 and younger will gain dental coverage nationwide by 2018.

Reggiardo says tooth decay and untreated cavities in childhood can lead to serious pain, and the negative effects of that can spread from there.

“Kids who are suffering with pain, they’re not getting adequate nutrition,” he explains. “Their school performance is affected. Their learning is affected.

“A child in pain is not going to be able to sit attentively in school and listen. And so, the implications go well beyond just having cavities.”

The next major deadline under the Affordable Care Act is just weeks away, with the first open enrollment period ending March 31 for those who want a plan this year through the health insurance marketplace.

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