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February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and dental-health experts are urging families not to skip kids’ routine dental visits despite disruptions during the pandemic.

Mary Backley, CEO of the Maryland Dental Action Coalition, said many community and school programs in Maryland, such as Head Start, help maintain children’s oral health, but most have has to close because of COVID-19.

She urged without the support and dental visits, parents need to keep up on oral hygiene, especially in young children, or face serious health problems.

“Dental caries is a chronic, chronic disease affecting children,” Backley explained. “And obviously, there’s pain associated with it, there’s eating ability, there’s ability to sleep. So, there’s great concern about that.”

If the pandemic is making it impossible to visit the dentist for checkups, dentists say parents should consider fluoride supplements for children.

They also recommend sealants; plastic coatings put on back teeth to stem decay. Also, check with your dentist to see if telephone or video consultations are available.

Richard Gesker, chief dental officer for United Healthcare, said a number of dental offices closed when the pandemic started last March, and many folks haven’t gone back for checkups.

He pointed out many have reopened, with precautions against spreading the coronavirus, but Gesker urged caution if your area is experiencing a surge of COVID cases.

“The American Dental Association recommends checkups, cleanings, routine care all continue during COVID-19,” Gesker noted. “However, depending on what region you’re in, please avoid any non-emergency care if you’re living in a place with uncontrolled community spread of COVID-19.”

In the meantime, he said it’s smart to brush teeth and gums for up to two minutes, after meals and before bedtime.

Dental-care spending in the nation fell by about 38% in 2020, and an additional 20% drop is expected this year, according to the American Dental Association.