By Jennifer O’Mann
With approximately 175,000 youth in foster care in the United States, about 10% are LGBTQ, according to Cureus. Like all young people, children in foster care need the support of a nurturing family to help them grow into healthy adulthood. However, LGBTQ youth face additional challenges such as gaining access to proper health care and financial support. Despite these challenges, this can be solved by finding them the care they need. So, to ensure that you give your child the dental health they deserve, here are three important points to keep in mind.
Dental Health Risk Rates For LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care
A lack of comprehensive treatment and continuity of care may compromise the oral health of LGBTQ youth in foster care. According to a study by Pediatr Dent 2019, research found that youth in foster care or homeless have certain needs and deal significant barriers to oral health care. Parents often have a difficulty in finding local dentists who accept Medicaid, as studies also found that youth in the foster program are more likely to deal with severe or worsening health conditions because of the limited access to proper care.
Oral health issues were more prevalent in children aged 12 and younger. The likelihood of a foster child entering your care with dental issues depends largely on their previous home life. The quality and funding of the foster care facilities that took them in also decide whether oral problems will be resolved or even detected in a reasonable amount of time. Not to mention, local barriers to dental care, such as the lack of facilities or infrastructure, also inhibit foster children from getting the attention they need.
Developing Positive Dental Care Habits
Considering the dental health risk rates that foster children face, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adoptive parents closely monitor their children’s oral health. This begins with brushing and flossing habits. If your adopted child had not developed such habits in foster care, the responsibility to build and reinforce them falls on you. Children can find brushing and flossing tedious and forget them either accidentally or on purpose. In that case, it is recommended that you find ways to make habits fun and reward your child for observing good oral care.
One of the most effective ways to monitor your child’s dental habits is to brush with them. This lets you walk them through the right way to take care of their oral health and gives them someone to mimic. Usually, older children are easier to persuade to brush and floss regularly and require less instruction. However, rewarding them for good behavior can be more difficult as rewards need to be appropriate for their age. In the future, they might also require special dental attention, such as braces and fillings. Consult your dentist on the best time to do them. Additionally, do your research on any safety guidelines you must observe for such oral treatments.
Paying Closer Attention To Oral Health Among LGBTQ Youth
According to the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry, dental college lectures average 1.25 hours on LGBTQ content. While lectures covered HIV, oral disease risks, and barriers to health care access for LGBTQ youth, only 23% covered discussions on faculty-observed patient interactions, according to The Institute of Medicine report The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People. So how can families gain a better understanding of their health? Children and teens have often only received sporadic and fragmentary dental health care before foster care. Families must explore the unrecognized and important role in improving their oral health. Forming solid dental care habits now can save you and your child the stress and costs of dental treatments later on.
Poor oral health leads to a multitude of negative effects on one’s quality of life. However, having access to adequate health care and dentists that are knowledgeable of STIs and HIV/AIDS will set the standards for developing good dental habits.