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Is Your Graduate Ready to Manage Medical, Dental & Vision Care?

Posted on May 25, 2018 in Healthy Living


Mom moving daughter into college

Your high school graduate is about to enjoy their final summer at home before flying the nest for college or their first job. There are a lot of preparations happening as your family arranges for high school graduation and your child’s departure. On your checklist below graduation party details, scheduling orientation and making sure the graduate finishes those thank you notes, add, “talk about health care needs.”

It’s easy to forget to discuss your child’s health care like medical, dental and vision needs because you’ve always been there to make sure those needs were met. Now that they will be on their own, are they prepared to manage their own health care? 

According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice analyzing the dental health practices of U.S. college students, the answer to that question is maybe. The survey showed that the number of college students reporting an annual dental exam and cleaning has steadily declined since 2006. Just over 70 percent of college students see a dentist annually. College males and students of diverse populations see the dentist less frequently than female college students.

Combine these results with busy schedules, new-found freedom and less structured nutritional habits, and your new grad may not be as accountable to brushing and flossing or keeping track of their glasses or disposable contact inventory. You can take steps to help them stay on track with their health by starting a conversation with them about how they want to handle their dental, vision and medical care needs.

Brush up on your coverage

Parents and guardians should start this process by reviewing all insurance policies covering your graduate. Most policies allow students to stay on their parents’ insurance while they are a full-time student. Moreover, since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, most policies now allow parents to keep young adults on their policies until age 26. If your policies do not cover your child or you need secondary coverage, now is the time to investigate your options. Many colleges and universities have options for insurance for your child or you may be able to enroll them in needed coverage through healthcare.gov. Once you have reviewed your policies, it’s time to sit down with your graduate and create a health care plan for college. 

Questions to ask

Working through these questions, you can begin the conversation with your graduate about their future health needs:

  • Where would you prefer to have your dental cleanings done twice a year?
  • Do you want to see the same eye doctor as you do now?
  • Where would you like to continue getting your annual doctor exams?
  • What first aid kit supplies will you need at your new residence?
  • Who can you contact on campus if you have a medical related emergency?
  • Where is the on-campus clinic and what are their hours?

Emergencies will arise for your student or even their first roommate. Talking about potential issues can help you both feel more prepared to handle whatever issues may happen. Here are a few key action items to get you started:

  • Your graduate should have a copy of health insurance, dental and eye insurance cards in their wallet or purse. Have your student take a picture on their smartphone so it’s always available.
  • Ask them to load contact information for a doctor, dentist, and optometrist into their phone - both the ones they have been using as well as ones in their new location. Even if they need to go to someone new, their health care professional may have questions about their previous exams, records and vaccinations that only their old records will be able to share.
  • Save a 24-hour nurse hotline and the emergency room phone number into their phone in the town where they will be living.
  • Create a contact in their phones for both their dorm residence advisor and college guidance counselor.
  • Send a first aid kit stocked with common cold and aches/pains medicines and be sure the directions for their use are understood.
  • Fill a tote with common items like new toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, contact solution and personal hygiene items that will last for the school year.
  • If your child wears contact lenses, make sure they have an adequate supply and have them set a reminder on their smartphone to reorder lenses at least 2-4 weeks in advance.

For regular dental and medical checkups, get a copy of the college schedule and make the next year’s visits in advance. We all know it can sometimes take weeks or months to be seen for these annual appointments. Planning ahead and scheduling appointments during the summer and school breaks will keep your graduate focused on their studies and decrease absenteeism.

For more information on dental and vision health care, visit Delta Dental of Iowa’s website.