Dr. Barbara Huggins

Kids & Cavities

May 17, 2007

Kids & Cavities -  May 17, 2007A recent study conducted by National Center for Health Statistics has determined that tooth decay is on the rise in young children's teeth. Tooth decay in young children had been decreasing for the last 40 years. However cavities in children ages 2-5 have increased to 28 percent in 1999-2004, from 24 percent in 1988-1994.

The reasons for tooth decay in young children are comparable to the reasons for the increase in childhood obesity: too much sugar in the diet. Parents are giving their children more processed snacks than in the past and more bottled water or other drinks instead of fluoridated tap water.

Fruit snacks, juice boxes, candy and soda are loaded with sugar. Although some fruit juices are fortified with calcium to promote healthy teeth and bones, when a child is allowed to hold a bottle, cup or box of juice in their mouth throughout the day or at bedtime, the teeth are continually soaked in sugar.

The Academy of General Dentistry informs us that decay occurs when solid or liquid food particles are left unswallowed and cling to the teeth or gums for long periods. Bacteria in the mouth use sugars to produce acid that attacks the enamel of the teeth, softening and then eroding them. Enamel breakdown leads to cavities.

Parents can start "brushing" their child's teeth at birth. The gums may be gently wiped with a soft, wet cloth after each feeding. When baby teeth appear, start cleaning them with a soft, child-sized toothbrush twice a day. A child should be taken to a pediatric dentist just after the first tooth comes in, usually between six and twelve months of age. The dentist can look for early tooth problems and talk with the parents about how to care for your child's teeth.

Help prevent tooth decay:
  • Brush teeth after meals
  • Floss regularly (daily)
  • Flouride treatments. If the water where you live does have enough not fluoride, your doctor may prescribe fluoride supplements
  • Supervise children as they brush their teeth
  • Have regular dental check ups
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