The ins and outs of dental care

by Jeana Coleman
Stripes Europe

A variety of factors affect whether or not dental care is available for the family of active-duty service members stationed overseas. These factors include facility location, branch of service, deployments and staffing fluctuations. When space is not available, dependents must rely on host-nation providers for their dental needs.

Through a voluntary dental program with TRICARE, military family members stationed in Europe can be sure they receive quality, affordable dental care. Low monthly premiums provide coverage for treatment from civilian providers at host-nation facilities for most dental procedures like cleanings, sealants, braces and dental implants. Although this TRICARE Dental Plan (TDP) in Europe is the same as that in the States, the European plan provides additional coverage and no cost shares for treatments like fillings and root canals.

To locate a preferred provider, visit You will be prompted to fill in your duty station and type of dental treatment you’re seeking. A list will be provided of preferred providers in your area. Host-nation dentists who qualify as preferred providers must speak English, be licensed in their country and meet a list of more than 15 standards of quality. Also, senior dental officers on installations periodically visit the offices of preferred providers to assess the quality of care and clinic customer service. For information about TDP enrollment, claims or covered benefits, contact one of the numbers provided in the sidebar or visit

Pediatric Dental Care

Tooth decay is the most common chronic, infectious disease affecting U.S. children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 20 percent of children ages 5-11 have untreated cavities, or caries; untreated decay can lead to pain and infection that may hinder a child’s ability to eat, speak, play and learn.

Tooth decay can be prevented if families develop daily brushing regimens and schedule routine dental examinations and cleanings. Although all dentists can provide medical exams, treatment and advice, consider visiting a pediatric dentist who specializes in children’s dental health and provides an office environment and equipment that are designed specifically for kids.

Cleaning Routine by Age

0-2: Before your baby’s first tooth erupts, use a soft cloth and gently wipe gums after feedings, during bath time and before bedtime. Gently brush first teeth with an infant finger brush and non-fluoride paste. Avoid nighttime bottles with anything but water, or dipping pacifiers into anything sweet. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Dental Association (ADA) recommend that you take your child to a dentist by his or her first birthday.

2-5: Help your child brush his/her teeth twice daily (morning and night) with an age-appropriate brush and small amount of fluoride paste. Begin flossing when teeth grow to touch. Limit juices and carbonated drinks, and schedule routine dental exams and cleanings every six months. Discuss your routine and any additional treatments like sealants or fluoride supplements. Sucking on fingers, thumbs or pacifiers can affect teeth and promote decay. If a child does not stop on his own, ask your dentist for helpful tips to discourage the habit by age 3.

5 and up: A child’s hand muscles are still developing, so assist with brushing until age 7 or 8. Floss each day, and seek resources for tips in how to floss. Use fluoride toothpaste. Children playing sports should wear appropriate mouth guards. Continue to avoid juices and carbonated drinks, and maintain dental exams and cleanings every six months. Talk with your dentist about your current cleaning routine and areas of improvement.

Promoting Healthy Habits

Brushing and flossing don’t have to be such a chore. Several organizations provide educational resources and fun toolkits that encourage healthy dental habits: AAP’s Brush, Book, Bed; ADA’s Mouth Monsters; 2min2x; Brushing Fun Coloring Book.

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