mother and child practicing good dental hygiene in bathroom

Helpful Dental Hygiene Hacks for Kids

A common question among parents is when they should begin teaching their children oral hygiene. Many dentists assert that parents can start laying the groundwork for good brushing habits before their child’s first tooth even breaks the surface.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), tooth decay is the most common chronic disease found in children and adolescents, and is four times more likely to affect teens between 14 and 17 than asthma.

But for many parents, getting their kids to brush their teeth is a battle not unlike getting them to eat their broccoli or go to bed on time, But it doesn’t need to be this way. There are many ways parents can set their children up for success when it comes to their oral health without needing to resort to bargaining or threats.

Start Early

For newborns, it is common for parents to use gauze or another type of clean cloth to wipe down their gums down after feedings to discourage germs and bacteria from lingering and developing into problems down the line.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), a child’s first trip to the dentist should coincide with the arrival of the first baby tooth, and should happen no later than their first birthday.

Early exposure to dentist visits and cleaning their mouths can help get your child used to these activities in the future. Starting good oral hygiene habits early can help show them that these activities are not out of the ordinary and are just part of the routine and nothing to be afraid of or anxious about.

Lead by Example

Whether it’s what you say or what you do, kids love to imitate adults. So, when it comes to oral hygiene, make sure you’re setting a good example. Try dancing, making funny faces, or even singing or humming a song while brushing. No matter what you do, just be sure that your child sees you enjoying brushing your teeth. This will teach them that brushing is a fun activity that they can look forward to.

Make It Fun

Toothbrush makers know that the more fun they can make brushing for kids, the more likely those kids will grow into adults with healthy brushing habits. That’s why so many toothbrushes now come in flashy colors – some with cartoon characters, some that play music, and others that light up.

And while you won’t be able to find any toothpaste to sing songs to your kids, you will find it available in a variety of colors, flavors, and some even with glitter or other special effects.

Having a cool toothbrush may be half the battle but using positive reinforcement techniques to encourage your toddler to keep brushing also helps. Sticker charts, a special snack, and even an extra ten minutes of play time are all great ideas.

Find What Works

No two children are the same and what works for one, may not work for another. Some children’s gums may be more sensitive than others which will force parents to opt for soft or silicone bristled toothbrushes. Ultimately, it is up to you, the parent, to figure out what works best for your child and hygiene structure.

For parents with children who struggle with developmental disabilities such as autism, the process for learning good oral health habits may prove even more challenging. And with roughly one out of every 40 children in America diagnosed with autism, there is a growing need for more dentists and dental practitioners to be both better equipped and knowledgeable when it comes to serving patients with developmental disabilities.

If your child falls into this group, and getting them to practice good oral hygiene proves too strenuous for both of you, a Board-certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) may be able to help.

The Right Choice for Your Family

When was the last time your child made a trip to the dentist? With our Comprehensive PPO dental plan, your family will have the freedom to visit any licensed dentist in the country. You can save even more when you visit one of over 135,000 preferred dentists and 32,000 specialists nationwide. Make your family’s oral health a priority by visiting https://spark.memberbenefits.com/dentalvision/ today.

children eating ice cream cones on a park bench

Two Things Your Teeth Want You to Avoid This Summer

Summer is finally here. This is the time of year where families all over the country can sit back, relax together, and enjoy the warm weather. But while you and your family are trying to keep cool, there are a few summer staples you should avoid in order to prevent tooth decay and the resulting costly dental procedures.

Fruity Drinks

No summer is complete without at least a few fruity drinks by the pool. And while the fruit may be good for you and help keep you hydrated in the summer heat, the excess sugar won’t do you any favors. Despite the main ingredient being fruits and/or veggies, smoothies can contain lots of hidden sugar which can wreak havoc on not just your waistline, but your teeth as well.

According to WebMD, “tooth decay is caused by bacteria that feeds on sugars from food and drinks. That bacteria — called plaque — can stick to your teeth, producing acids that eat through the enamel on your teeth.” So, while a fruity drink or smoothie may sound great, don’t forget that water can be just as refreshing.

Chewing Ice

When it comes to ice cubes, those frozen cubes are best left melting in your cup.

Chewing on ice may seem like a harmless zero-calorie way to keep cool but it can lead to enamel damage. Like all hard foods, chewing on ice cubes can cause chips and cracks to your teeth and create a passageway for bacteria to get in and cause infections.

Aside from the potential for dental damage, chewing or craving ice can also be a sign of a larger health concern such an iron deficiency, or an eating disorder.

Keeping Your Mouth Protected

When it comes to maintaining good oral health and protecting yourself from costly dental work, the best thing you can do is to get covered.

Want to learn more about what dental plan options you have access to as a SPARK member? Visit https://spark.memberbenefits.com/dentalvision/ to learn more and to pick a plan that best fits your needs.

african american man holding jaw in pain from tooth

5 Most Common Dental Problems And How To Avoid Them

According to American author William Arthur Ward, “A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” Smiling is something we do instinctively as infants and something we carry with us all throughout our lives. Unfortunately for some, their smiles may not prove to be as warm and welcoming as they would hope. Problems such as gum disease, yellowed teeth, and chronic bad breath can have a negative impact when meeting new people and could be a sign of a deeper issue due to the close link between oral and overall health.

Many people learn the importance of oral hygiene at a young age. Those who don’t may face a variety of oral health problems down the road, some being scarier than others. So, what are some of the most common dental diseases?

  1. Bad Breath

While some cases of bad breath can be the result of eating foods like onions, garlic, or hard-boiled eggs, other cases may prove to be more serious. Bad breath, otherwise referred to as, Halitosis, may be something that even a good solid brushing won’t be able to fix. Halitosis can be a symptom of larger problems such as gum disease, infection, dry mouth, or even other seemingly unrelated issues like gastric reflux, diabetes, liver or kidney disease. In some instances, Halitosis may even require a trip to your doctor.

  1. Gum Disease

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are over 3 million cases of gum disease each year. And while gum disease, otherwise known as Periodontitis, may be common, that doesn’t make it any less serious. In fact, those with gum disease have a higher chance of developing diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and other ailments. In order to lessen your chances of developing gum disease, it is advised to practice good oral hygiene and schedule regular cleanings with your dentist, who may decide whether more preventative action is needed.

  1. Yellow Teeth

While not exactly a disease, yellow teeth can be a sign of poor oral hygiene and can, in some cases, indicate other dental issues that may be lurking just beneath the surface. Visiting the dentist once every six months for a thorough cleaning can help prevent yellowing teeth due to diet or lifestyle choices. In some severe cases, veneers may be recommended.

  1. Toothaches

A toothache should never be ignored. While some cases of a toothache may be related to minor inflammation, other cases could indicate the presence of gum disease, cavities, pulpitis, a broken tooth, or more. When confronted with a persistent toothache, the best course of action is to have a dentist find the underlying cause.

  1. Tooth Erosion

There are few substances within the human body that are stronger than our enamel. This is why everyone from our dentists to television commercials are constantly urging us to protect it — because once our enamel is gone, it cannot be brought back. The loss of enamel is referred to as tooth erosion. Soda, sugar, and some acidic foods can eat away at our enamel. In order to combat the chances of experiencing tooth erosion, brushing with a soft-bristled brush is suggested as well as reducing the number of acidic drinks consumed.

Taking Control of Your Oral Health

When was the last time you visited the dentist? Could you be at risk of developing one, or even all, of these potentially costly dental problems?

Members can secure dental and vision insurance coverage for the whole family. Visit us to learn more about what our dental and vision insurance plans can do for you.

Millennials with tech devices in front of them on a blue bench

Myopia and Millennials: The Trend No One Saw Coming

According to a Nielson Company audience report, it is estimated that the average American spends over 10 hours behind a screen consuming digital media and content. But is this much screen time actually helping us or hurting us?

As it happens, a number of studies have recently come out against the rapid increase in screen time for everyone from toddlers to senior citizens. In fact, some of these studies have shown a correlation between increased screen time and the following:

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mother and child practicing good dental hygiene in bathroom

The Cost Of Not Having Dental Insurance

If you and your family have been skipping trips to the dentist, you’re not alone. “For every adult without health insurance, an estimated three lack dental insurance” this comes according to a quote issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation based off of research conducted by the National Association of Dental Plans.

A Key Component Of Overall Health and Hygiene

But what so few realize is the close relationship between one’s oral health and their overall health. A person’s mouth is a haven for potentially harmful bacteria, regular flossing, brushing, and cleanings can keep the bacteria at bay but when a person is neglecting their teeth, the bacteria can build and lead to infections, tooth decay, and gum disease. From there, it is possible for the bacteria to enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body leading to other serious problems.

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Visit a Dentist— ANY Dentist

The Member Group Comprehensive PPO is a dental plan that can help you save1 and get the care you need.

No matter who your dentist may be, with the MetLife Preferred Dentist Program, the power to choose and save is yours.

Here are the facts:

  • You can go to any licensed dentist, in or out of the network.
  • Reimbursement for your out-of-network dental care is based on the 90th percentile of “reasonable and customary” charges1. We look at what dentists in your area actually charge for services, and we calculate reimbursement based on the 90th percentile of those charges.
  • The way we determine allowable charges for the 90th R&C means your eligible benefit amount for out-of-network care is high relative to average dental charges in the community. This helps you pay less out of pocket.
  • Sometimes when you visit an out-of-network dentist you may have to pay part of the bill. This is called balance billing. But with a 90th percentile R&C plan, in most cases, you won’t be balance billed above your typical out-of-pocket costs – your deductible, coinsurance amount, and your plan maximum.

Take charge of your dental care

Talk to your dentist

Before you get any major dental work, you should talk to your dentist about getting a pretreatment estimate2. That’s when your dentist sends the plan for your care to MetLife.

For most procedures, you and your dentists will receive the estimate – online or by fax – during your visit. The statement shows amounts for what your plan covers. Then you and your dentist can talk about your care and costs before your treatment. It’s a great way to be prepared and plan ahead.

Get your plan information – fast!

Managing your dental benefits has never been easier. You’ve got MyBenefits – your secure member website. Just log on at www.metlife.com/mybenefits. With the 24/7 website you can3:

  • Review your plan information, including what’s covered and coinsurance
  • Track your deductible and plan maximums
  • Find a dentist or view your claim history
  • Read up on the oral health information you need to make informed decisions about your care

Take a look at the charts below. They will give you a better idea of how your plan works when you visit a participating (in-network) or a non-participating (out-of-network) dentist.

The 90th bar

This chart shows how often plan members across the nation usually go to a participating or non-participating dentist. It also shows just how rare it is for you to pay more than your typical out-of-pocket costs.

Savings example

This hypothetical example shows that whether you get a cleaning from a participating or non-participating dentist, you can still save money4.

Visit any licensed dentist. The choice is all yours!

Like most group benefit programs, benefit programs offered by MetLife and its affiliates contain certain exclusions, exceptions, waiting periods, reductions of benefits, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. Please contact MetLife or your Plan Administrator for complete details.

For more information, please click here.

1R&C fee refers to the Reasonable and Customary (R&C) charge, which is based on the lowest of 1) the dentist’s actual charge, 2) the dentist’s usual charge for the

same or similar services or the usual charge of most dentists in the same geographic area for the same or similar services as determined by MetLife.

2Actual benefit determinations are made when services are rendered and are subject to the following as applicable on the date of service: patient eligibility; plan and frequency limitations; maximums and deductibles; and other coverages.

3With the exception of scheduled or unscheduled systems maintenance or interruptions, the MyBenefits website is typically available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

4Please note: This is a hypothetical example that reviews an adult teeth cleaning (D1110) in the Chicago area, zip 60601.  It assumes that the annual deductible has been met.

5This example excludes non-participating dentists who charge more than what 90% of what other dentists in the area charge. Please note that if you receive care from a dentist that falls into this category, your out-of-pocket costs may be higher.

6Negotiated Fee refers to the fees that in-network dentists have agreed to accept as payment in full, subject to any co-payments, deductibles, cost sharing and benefits maximums.

Tips to Help You Keep Your Teeth for Life

Did you know that one in four Americans over 65 have no teeth? That being said, a healthy smile can be an impressive asset! Your teeth vary in shape and size depending on where they are in your mouth. These differences allow them to do many different jobs. They help us talk, pronounce different sounds clearly and give our faces their shape! Because they are so important, it makes sense to give your teeth the best care possible. For most of us, thorough daily oral hygiene lays the foundation for a healthy smile. Just a simple routine of brushing and flossing, in addition to regular dental checkups, can be enough in most cases to help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.

Follow these tips to hold onto your smile!

Floss, then brush.

We have heard this our whole lives, but not many of us do it. If you floss before brushing, you remove food that is trapped in tight spots – which are major “bacteria growth” zones. Place your brush at a slight angle toward the gums when brushing along the gum line. Use a gentle touch—it doesn’t take much pressure to remove the plaque from your teeth, and a vigorous scrubbing could irritate your gums. Concentrate on cleaning all the surfaces of the teeth. To help prevent tooth decay, use a fluoride-containing toothpaste.

Good eating habits.

Many people think that having a high level of sugar in your diet is the most common reason for tooth decay. This is not true – it is how often you have sugar in your diet, not the amount. It takes up to an hour for your mouth to cancel out the acid caused by eating and drinking sugar. Give your teeth a cleanse by munching on crunchy vegetables or fruits at the end of a meal, this serves as a type of mini tooth-brushing session. The hard flesh acts as a cleanser and the chewing motion stimulates saliva production. Replace your afternoon soda with tea – tea leaves contain the tooth protector fluoride. Studies show that green tea drinkers have a lower incidence of advanced gum disease. As an added bonus, researchers believe that the catechin in green tea is more effective than mints at combating bad breath.

Take your vitamins.

Vitamin C, Calcium, Vitamin D and Omega-3 are vital for maintaining and repairing gum tissue. Everything from tooth sensitivity to receding gums can often be attributed to Vitamin C deficiency.  Calcium is crucial for strong teeth and healthy bones. Vitamin D helps maximize calcium absorption. Omega-3 or fish oil supplements can help gum tissue heal.

Watch your medicine intake.

Medicine, both prescription and over-the-counter, can often cause decreased saliva production. This is dangerous because saliva serves as a protective barrier against gum and tooth decay. When on medicine, be sure to take frequent sips of water or chew sugar-free gum to help relieve dry mouth. If this doesn’t do the trick, consult your dentist!

Regular dental check-ups.

Only a dentist can truly assess the health of your gums. It is important to keep up with cleanings and regular six-month checkups. Gum disease is a serious infection that can lead to tooth loss and compromised health if left untreated. These are some of the warning signs that should prompt you to see a dentist:

  • Tender, swollen or red gums
  • Bleeding while brushing or flossing
  • Gums pulling away from the teeth, which will make your teeth appear longer
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • Mouth sores or other pain
  • Persistent bad breath
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

 

Everyone needs dental care. Schedule your check up today!
Don’t have dental insurance? Start shopping for coverage today!

The Link Between Gum Disease and Health Conditions

Most people want a straight, white smile because it looks better or younger. What many people don’t realize is that good oral health is an indication that your body is healthy as well. There is a correlation between periodontal disease and a number of illnesses. According to one recent study, those with serious gum disease were up to 40% more likely to have a chronic health condition.

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Dental Costs With and Without Health Insurance

Everyone needs dental care at some point. However, not everyone wants to pay for insurance coverage. Chances are you’ve thought about costs tied to proper treatment. If you’re considering covering dental costs out-of-pocket on a per-treatment basis, knowing common procedure costs is important. While avoiding up-front costs from purchasing a dental insurance plan may seem cost-effective, having a great dental plan can greatly reduce your overall cost of care.

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