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04 Feb, Saturday
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Montreal Families

Start New Year by scheduling lapsed health check-ups for kids

As COVID-19 pandemic restrictions stretched from months to years, several public health challenges emerged in Quebec. Difficulty accessing family doctors and parental concerns about exposing kids to the virus led to many missed appointments with health care providers such as doctors, dentists and optometrists.

This January, why not make it a New Year’s resolution to get back on track and schedule health-related appointments for the kids.

Should my child have regular appointments with a pediatrician?

The Quebec government discourages pediatricians from following healthy children in private practices on an annual basis. The logic is that healthy children don’t need regular visits and it will free up time for pediatricians to prioritize kids with urgent, chronic or complex health problems.  Previously, these “well-child” visits were done each year to monitor growth, chart developmental milestones and covered other aspects of child health.

If you do not have a family doctor for your child, you can put them on the government waiting list using the Quebec Family Doctor Finder at quebec.ca/en/health/finding-a-resource/registering-with-a-family-doctor. Those with concerns about their child’s development can contact their local CLSC or doctor for information. A program called Agir tôt is available for children up to the age of  5 and their families and aims to identify indicators of developmental difficulties in children so that they can be directed to the right services quickly.

How often should my child go to the dentist?

The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) recommends children have their first visit within 6 months of the eruption of their first tooth, or by the age of 1, whichever comes first. In most cases, a regular examination of the mouth every six months makes it possible to detect certain problems, and with early detection, your dentist can then advise, act quickly, or make referrals.

“Oral health is part of your overall health and well-being, and it’s important to stay on top of it,” says Dr. Aaron Burry, CDA Associate Director of Professional Affairs. “To regain good oral health, individuals who were unable to have issues addressed or had treatments interrupted, should book an appointment with their dentist as soon as possible. Patients who missed periodic appointments should get back to seeing their dentists regularly.”

The CDA notes that Canadians visit the dentist on a regular basis, however; children continue to have high rates of oral disease and more than six million Canadians each year avoid visiting the dentist because of cost.

In Quebec, the cost of dental exams and some treatments for children under age 10 are covered by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Quebec (kids must have a health insurance card). Some of the services covered include the annual examination and emergency examination, X-rays, local or general anesthesia, grey amalgam fillings on premolar and molar teeth, as well as tooth and root extractions. Examples of services not covered for this age group include cleaning, scaling, fluoride application, pit and fissure sealing, and orthodontics.

To keep teeth healthy, the CDA recommends a good oral hygiene routine at home between regular dental visits. Brush teeth for 2-3 minutes twice a day (with parent’s help depending on the child’s age), floss at least once a day or after snacking, make water the drink of choice, and ensure a balanced and nutritious diet. For more tips on how to care for children’s primary teeth and new permanent teeth, learn about tooth decay and fluoride, and what to expect at your child’s first dentist appointment visit cda-adc.ca/en/oral_health/cfyt/dental_care_children/

The Quebec Order of Dentists has created a questionnaire (in French only) that allows individuals to find government programs and other options for accessing oral care at reduced rates. Visit Dentaccès at dentacces.ca to see if you are eligible.

At the beginning of December, the federal government introduced a new children’s dental benefit. Families who earn less than $90,000 and have children 12 and under, can apply for up to $650 a year toward dental services.  For more information, visit canada.ca/dental/benefit.

When should I take my child to an optometrist?

The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) recommends infants have their first appointment between six and nine months, again before starting school, and annually thereafter.

Refractive errors — vision problems that make it hard to see clearly such as myopia (nearsightedness), hypermetropia (farsightedness) or astigmatism are the most common types of vision problems and are often the culprits in a child’s learning-related issues. When uncorrected, these refractive errors can cause symptoms of blurred vision, ghosting or double vision, headaches, and eyestrain, and affect a child’s academic performance and overall health.

The CAO states that myopia is occurring at earlier ages and progressing at rates faster than seen in previous generations. Research has found that myopia in children has increased dramatically from Grade 1 to Grade 8, with almost a third of the cases going undiagnosed and uncorrected. And while the onset of myopia was historically 12-13 years of age, it is now 6-7. Time spent indoors and extended up-close work may be factors contributing to the increase. In an effort to control the onset and development of myopia in children, the CAO recommends that parents encourage at least 90 minutes of outdoor time each day.

Children under the age of 18 and insured by the Québec Health Insurance Plan are covered for 1 complete examination and evaluation of colour vision per year. Children under 18 can also be reimbursed $250 for eyeglasses or contact lenses if prescribed by a Quebec-licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist and bought at a Quebec merchant. Emergency exams performed by optometrists are also covered for all insured persons experiencing a sudden eye problem such as conjunctivitis or a foreign body in the eye.

A report commissioned by doctors at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA found that 80 percent of classroom learning is visual, with background research showing over 20 per cent of students have a vision problem that can be identified by screening, and over 80-90 per cent of those issues can be corrected with glasses.

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