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Affordable Care Act helping more kids see dentist

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, but across South Dakota, the Northern Plains and the nation there are new requirements that could help take a bite out of the problem.

Pediatric dental care is one of the essential benefits under the Affordable Care Act, meaning childhood dental care must be offered, whether it's part of a health plan or as an optional standalone.

That should help get more children in the dentist's chair, according to Dr. Paul Reggiardo, spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

As a result of the ACA, it's estimated as many as 8.7 million people 21 years old and younger will gain dental coverage nationwide by 2018.

Reggiardo says tooth decay and untreated cavities in childhood can lead to serious pain, and the negative effects of that spread out from there.

The next major deadline under the Affordable Care Act is just weeks away, with the first open enrollment period ending March 31 for those wanting a plan this year through the health insurance marketplace.