It's a curious thing. For most of our lives, the chance our preschoolers would get a cavity has been dropping, at times dramatically. But now, for the first time in 40 years, the trend is reversing. In a dramatic turn around, our 2-5 year old children are now more likely not only to have cavities, but to have so much tooth decay that general anesthesia is needed to repair 6-12 teeth at one time!
It's worth thinking about this development for a moment. Not too long ago, dentists were getting close to celebrate the end of tooth decay in young children. But that moment appears to have vanished. In its place is a shocking epidemic of very severe cavities in pre-schoolers. Unlike the cavities seen in kids 30-40 years ago when money protected against cavities, this epidemic afflicts rich and poor alike.
No one knows exactly why things have gotten so much worse so rapidly. But here are a few theories:
- The rise of juice. Today more than ever, an expectation has been established that what you drink should be exciting.
- The rise of sweet snacks. Again, that excitement enticement. The combination of juice and sugar snacks causes a tremendous bolt of bacterial growth in the mouth with every juice pack and fruit roll up. When sugar is eaten, the saliva in the mouth turns very acidic for about 20 minutes. Acid dissolves enamel, which can weaken all of a pre-schoolers teeth very well, opening the door to multiple cavities.
- The rise of bottle water. No real reason this should have happened, beyond successful marketing. But the move towards bottled water has effectively dropped the protective power that fluoride in tap water offers. Flouride blocks cavities. Dropping fluoride invites cavities.
- The fall of toothbrushing. Once a tooth appears, a child should have their teeth brushed twice a day with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste, no more than a pea size. This action drops the chance of getting tooth decay. Some kids don't like doing it, but if parents go along with that preference, they effectively increase the chance that cavities will appear.
Put it all together, and we have a very good scenario for a big jump in cavities, a jump that is here.
Cavities, once nearly vanquished from the lives of our young children, are now back with a vengeance. Preschoolers now are developing multiple cavities, many requiring general anesthesia for repair.
Take these four steps to protect your young children from this happening:
- Only give your children water to drink, with the only exception being skim milk.
- Make sure the water you give is tap water, not bottle water.
- If your tap water has no fluoride, make sure your children get fluoride supplements
- Snacks should be fruits and vegetables, only.
- Brush every child's teeth twice a day with a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste
These simple steps will not only protect your child's teeth, but their overall health, too.
Dr. Arthur Lavin
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