Everyone Loves Going to the Doctor and Dentist

Written By: Rachel Strong
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Going to the doctor or dentist can be traumatic for children of all ages. Many adults do not always like going to their regular checkups, and we don't need to get shots! But health and dental checkups are extremely important for students-especially young students entering school for the first time.

Dental exams can, of course, locate, treat, and even prevent cavities. The dentist can also encourage children to begin implementing good oral hygiene. Most dental visits and checkups also include fluoride treatments, which also help strengthen teeth and may prevent dental problems in the future. As students get older, and begin getting their adult teeth, a dentist may recommend braces or retainers to help adjust teeth that are out of alignment. Regular dental checkups also help prevent problems as the adult teeth begin coming in. Left too long, a loose tooth could prevent an adult tooth from dropping, even when pulled. This could possibly leave a gap that requires extensive and painful oral surgery.

Dental visits, however, may be very expensive in and of themselves-especially without insurance. Many cities and states have free or reduced-cost clinics for children if their parents can't afford insurance or the out-of-pocket dental costs. Parents can check with the department of health and welfare in their city or on-line for low-cost dental care.

For the younger student, going to the doctor may be extra traumatic. Young children usually receive vaccinations during their doctor visits, and most states require proof of vaccination before a student can attend school. All states require a series of vaccinations for a myriad of diseases including measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, and meningitis. Parents who are against vaccinations for religious or other reasons may have difficulty enrolling their students in public school without the proper documentation from the family doctor.

While many of these diseases are no longer seen (no one has been vaccinated for smallpox in decades), some are making a comeback in populations that have not received regular booster shots. In early 2006, Iowa State University had an outbreak of the mumps on campus. Some states are requiring vaccinations for normal childhood illnesses such as the chicken pox.

These early doctor visits also can help identify hearing or vision problems, or even some learning disabilities. Doctors may perform simple hearing tests to make sure the child can hear in the adequate range, and also make sure that he or she can see things adequately. The doctor may even test for dyslexia, ADD, or other learning or behavioral problems.

Older students begin needing regular physicals before playing sports. The doctor usually checks for abnormal heart and lung function that may prove to be the difference between life and death on the field or court. This exam sometimes also includes testing for scoliosis and diabetes, both of which may be exacerbated by vigorous exercise and competition, but may not necessarily be a death sentence for a student's sports career.

As a student reaches the teen years, booster shots may be needed, and sports checkups (even for P.E. class) are recommended. As students get older, doctors usually take the opportunity to speak with the children about high-risk activity such as wearing seatbelts and bike helmets, and the kids have an opportunity to ask questions about drugs, alcohol, and other high-risk behaviors.

Keeping a child healthy is not just the responsibility of doctors and the students. Teaching children good habits-such as going to the dentist or doctor regularly-can help instill a sense of responsibility into a child, and may help them make smart financial decisions (such as opting for health or dental care at a job) in the future.

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