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Should Children Have Dental Insurance?

Many people are under the assumption that because children have primary teeth, that dental care for those teeth is not important. After all, the first set of teeth will eventually fall out, making way for the secondary - or permanent - set of teeth. Those are the teeth that should receive the utmost care, right?

Wrong.

The American Dental Association stresses the importance of taking care of "baby" teeth. Most children begin to grow their primary teeth at around 6 months of age. Primary teeth play a vital role in not only helping the child to chew and eat more solid food, but to also help the child to speak properly. Primary teeth also serve as a means of holding a spot for the more permanent teeth, helping to provide adequate spacing when the secondary teeth arrive. By the time a child reaches age 3, he or she should have a full set of 20 primary teeth.

Failure to properly care for primary teeth can lead to a slew of problems for children as they get older, including speech impediments, tooth decay and improper spacing/alignment.

Within six months of a child's first tooth appearing, the ADA recommends that a professional dentist examine the child's mouth and existing baby teeth. A dentist will check for cavities, as well as other dental issues that could be occurring. It is a lot easier to fix problems before they develop into more serious issues - and a lot less costly.

Children, like adults, should have their teeth examined and cleaned at least twice annually. Because children are more prone to dental disease such as cavities, items such as dental sealants also may be applied to their teeth to help prevent tooth decay. A routine exam and cleaning generally costs around $100. If it is the child's first visit, or the dentist has reason to suspect underlying issues, a full set of x-rays also may be taken during the visit. This can cost anywhere from $25 to $80 depending on the service area. Sealants, which are applied to help prevent cavities from forming, run between $30 and $60 per application.

It is easy to rack up a large bill at the dentist for your child, which is a solid reason to consider purchasing dental insurance for them. If an employer does not currently provide dental as part of a comprehensive healthcare package, individuals have the opportunity to purchase their own. Cost ranges from $7 to $50 or more a month, depending on the type and scope of services covered.

Most insurance plans for children cover two to three annual exams and cleanings per year, as well as the tooth sealant to protect the teeth from decay. Fillings, root canals and other routine dental procedures generally are covered anywhere from 50 to 80 percent. Whether the individual must meet a deductible or is responsible for a co-payment depends on the type of dental insurance plan purchased. Cosmetic procedures such as orthodontics and teeth whitening are not covered by most dental insurance plans.

Still not sold on the idea of purchasing dental insurance for your child(ren)? Consider this: a provision within the 2010 Affordable Care Act may not give you a choice. According to the act, all children will be required to have dental insurance by 2014. At this time, it is unclear whether that coverage will be provided through state-sponsored dental insurance plans, or if individuals will be required to purchase it for their children out-of-pocket.

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