Decay: The Childhood Dental Epidemic (and How to Avoid It)

child tooth decay

Losing a baby tooth is one of our most memorable childhood milestones. However, unnerving stats show that children across the globe are losing their teeth earlier and earlier. These children aren’t merely in a rush for a visit from the tooth fairy; rather, these extractions are performed due to the presence of decay. The growing epidemic is enough to scare a parent, but learning the cause of this epidemic can ensure that your children’s teeth stay healthy.

What’s causing the increase in tooth decay in children?

The number one factor in tooth decay is diet. Specifically, a diet high in sugar affects a child’s teeth as sugar can lead to decay. Unfortunately, tooth decay is growing in prevalence at an alarming rate. One study in the UK revealed that nearly 33% of children are showing at least one sign of tooth decay while a study based in Ohio estimated that nearly 51% of children in Ohio suffer from tooth decay. Extractions (and hospital admission for the extraction) has risen by almost twenty percent.

How exactly does sugar contribute to decay?

When sugary foods or drinks are consumed, naturally-occurring bacteria in the mouth “feed” off that sugar. As the bacteria devour the sugar, they produce an acid which starts to eat away at the minerals of the tooth, which then opens the door to decay.

Tips for maintaining good oral health in children

Despite the growing epidemic of children experiencing tooth decay and early tooth extractions, parents do not have to feel helpless. Follow these tips to ensure that your children’s teeth stay healthy:

  • Establish a routine: Even if your child (especially a young toddler) protests an oral care routine, stick with it. Children who are taught how and why to establish a routine are much more likely to carry this habit into adulthood.
  • Brush and supervise: Even if a small child can brush their teeth independently doesn’t mean that he is doing a thorough job. Until your child turns eight (approximately) expect to do the brushing. Continue to supervise until your child turns eleven.
  • Floss: Brushing alone still puts kids and adults at risk for decay. Flossing helps remove any debris from in between those hard-to-reach areas of the mouth.
  • Keep regular appointments: Keeping routine dental appointments helps dentists spot any problem spots before they become overbearing. This also helps to instill good practices within your kids.
  • Model good behavior: Perhaps no tip is as effective as modeling the behavior you want to see. Brush and floss your teeth alongside your kids.
  • Limit sugar: Because sugar is linked to tooth decay, it makes sense then to limit sugar. Limit (or even remove) sugary sodas from the diet. Drink water or milk with meals and cut back on juice, even 100% juice. This doesn’t mean that you have to forgo dessert; if you do indulge in a sweet treat, just try to brush your teeth as quickly as possible afterward.

Even if you or your child already has a cavity, it’s not too late to start implementing healthy oral routines into your life. Remember, to keep your regular dental appointments scheduled and contact your provider if you have any specific concerns.


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