Dentist visits are not usually what you would associate with the word “fun”. As uncomfortable as it can be, it’s important to go for frequent dental check-ups to identify potential oral health problems. This applies to kids too, of course! Dental problems are actually more common in children than you might think. In Singapore, it’s estimated that more than 50 percent of all children will have one or more decayed teeth by the time they begin primary school (Health Hub, Ministry of Health Singapore). So, before the issues get worse – or more expensive to treat – head along to your dentist for a check-up. Pacific Prime Singapore shares top dental problems children face and why it is important to get dental insurance.
#1 Tooth decay
Unsurprisingly, tooth decay (aka cavities) is the most common dental problem amongst children, despite it being largely preventable. It is caused by bacteria on teeth that breakdown food products and produce acid that destroys the enamel.
The simplest and most obvious way to prevent decay is to ensure that your child brushes their teeth twice daily with toothpaste. To incentivise your child to brush their teeth more, try to make it a fun process for them. You could perhaps get them a toothbrush with their favourite cartoon character on it or make it a family activity.
That said, one major culprit of tooth decay in young children is bottle decay. This refers to the common habit of children snoozing with a bottle of milk in their mouth, which encourages cavities to quickly develop. Parents are therefore strongly advised not to use this method way to get their child to fall asleep.
While tooth decay is a very common dental condition among both adults and children, it’s especially worrying in children because, if left untreated, the decay on the milk tooth (also the temporary tooth) can negatively affect the development of the permanent tooth.
#2 An open bite
This occurs when the upper and lower teeth do not meet when the mouth is closed, which results in an opening between the rows of teeth when one closes their jaw. This affects not only appearance, but in more serious cases, it could cause speech difficulties (a lisp, for example). There are three main causes of an open bite, namely:
- A problem with the jawbone
- Bad habits (e.g., pushing the tongue through the teeth when swallowing, speaking or thumb sucking)
- When there is a combination of temporary and permanent teeth (common in children)
Sometimes, this orthodontic condition can be resolved on its own as permanent teeth develop. Orthodontic devices (such as braces) are sometimes required. In more serious cases, surgery may be needed if there’s an issue with the jawbone.
#3 Deep overbite
A malocclusion (also known as a deep overbite) occurs when there is a misalignment of the top teeth over the bottom teeth. An overbite is normal (virtually every single person has one), but when the overbite is overly pronounced, it will become a deep overbite. This orthodontic condition not only causes aesthetic concerns, but can cause pain and excessive wear.
Overbites are mainly inherited, meaning if you have a deep overbite, your child will likely have it too. If left untreated, a deep overbite can be especially dangerous for children, as teeth that stick out are more prone to damage. Fortunately, a deep overbite can be corrected with orthodontic treatment, but in more serious cases, surgery may be required to correct the jaw.
Covering dental care costs
Like other healthcare services in Singapore, dental treatments are of a high standard here. Costs are therefore often sky-high. This is especially true for expats who do not have access to subsidised prices. For instance, the non-subsidised cost of braces (two jaws) at public facilities can be as high as S$6,000 (MOH) and sometimes even higher! Naturally, fees are even more expensive at private clinics.
Given the high cost of dental treatment, it’s important to check whether your current family health insurance plan covers dental treatment and – if the answer is yes – whether it’s adequate. For most health insurance providers, dental insurance is typically available as an add-on. Note the treatments that can or cannot be covered before committing to the policy.
Read more in our Health & Fitness section!