Some dentists feel that this increase is due to parents skipping children’s regular dental appointments during tight economic times and not pushing young children to brush their teeth after each meal, or at least twice a day.
But could this possibly be linked to a reduction, or lack of fluoridated water beyond regular oral hygiene?
The CDC reports that over 19% of children ages 2-19 have untreated cavities — the first increase in 40 years, with the largest increase in the number of preschoolers with cavities since the last study completed five years ago.
The New York Times recently reported that dentists nationwide say they are seeing more preschoolers at all income levels with 6 to 10 cavities or more. The level of decay, they added, is so severe that they often recommend using general anesthesia because young children are unlikely to sit through such extensive procedures while they are awake.
Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in Augusta, Me. told the New York Times, “I have parents tell me all the time, ‘No one told us when to go to the dentist, when we should start using fluoride toothpaste’ — all this basic information to combat the No. 1 chronic disease in children.”
Dentists believe there are several contributing factors to the increase in tooth decay: lack of regular, enforced tooth brushing, too many sweetened juices without brushing, regular visits to the dentist starting when the child is 1, and parents who are choosing bottled water over fluoridated tap water.
The Times article features an image of the surgical wing of the Center for Pediatric Dentistry at Seattle Children’s Hospital with 30-month-old Devon Koester. Eleven, of his twenty baby teeth are being treated due to cavities.
NBC’s chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman spoke to the tooth decay problem on the “Today” show. She said that too much sugar, lack of regular brushing, and drinking bottled water instead of regular old tap water has exacerbated the problem.
Dr. Snyderman offers the following report on tooth decay in children’s teeth –
The American Dental Association offers the following tips for parents with babies, Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers –
- After each feeding, clean the baby’s gums with a clean wet gauze pad or washcloth.
- When teeth start to appear, brush them with a child’s size toothbrush and plain water.
- At the direction of your dentist, some children under two may benefit from the use of fluoride toothpaste. Look for toothbrushes that carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance. They have been evaluated by the ADA for safety and effectiveness.
- Begin flossing when at least two teeth begin to touch.
- Start dental visits by the child’s first birthday. Make visits regularly. If you think your child has dental problems, take the child to the dentist as soon as possible.
- Brush teeth of children over age two with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and make sure to floss daily. Look for toothpastes that carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance. They have been evaluated by the ADA for safety and effectiveness.
- Children should be supervised while brushing to keep them from swallowing the toothpaste.
Dentists, what has been your experience? Have you seen an increase in young children with severe cavity problems?
What do you think are the reasons behind this growing dental care trend?
For more on this story see: Preschoolers in Surgery for a Mouthful of Cavities