Few children on Medicaid getting dental check-ups - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Few children on Medicaid getting dental check-ups

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Dubuque (KWWL) -- Medical care can be expensive, but even with government programs, many parents are still not keeping up on their kid's dental care. A new federal government report analyzes Health and Human Services data about kids dental care and Medicaid.

In a 2004 survey, only one-third of children on Medicaid had dental care that year, while more than half of children with private insurance had been to the dentist.  Also, about one in three children on Medicaid had untreated tooth decay; one in nine had three or more teeth with untreated tooth decay.

Some pediatric dentists say part of the problem is not all parents know the importance of getting kids to the dentist at an early age Doctor Fred Cheung says the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends kids should start going around the age of one.

"The reason why is certain habits can be prevented and certain problems can be detected," Cheung said. Cheung looks at habits like kids sleeping with bottles or other things that could hamper dental health. Cheung says cavities can spread more quickly through baby teeth, so kids should have a check-up every six months.

Doctor Cheung says kids who go to the dentist from a young age, and regularly, may be less afraid to go to the dentist later in life.

"The first time you go to the dentist and you've got four or five big cavities. It's a lot harder for anybody to endure that, but if you have a smaller one, hopefully we can take care of that and it'll be easier for your children," Cheung said.

Although baby teeth fall out, Cheung says they still need to be healthy.

"If you don't take care of the baby teeth, you are more prone to losing space for the development of your permanent teeth, and you'll end up more likely to have orthodontic treatment," Cheung said.

In the end, orthodontic treatment or fixing advanced cavities could mean more money than regular check-ups.

Dentists say another factor in less Medicaid children seeing a dentist could be the availability of pediatric dentists that accept Medicaid. Doctor Cheung says around 25 percent of his patients use Medicaid.

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