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America’s Preschoolers Plagued with Cavities

For years the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that cavities in preschoolers was the number one chronic (yet preventable) condition impacting the nation’s youth. A recent study of the matter has indicated the truth behind this statement. Dentists across the nation have reported an increase of preschoolers of all income levels sporting multiple cavities and tooth decay on baby teeth and have been relying on the powers of general anesthesia to help deliver the essential dental treatments to improve the conditions.

The practice has gotten many medical experts concerned. The dentists performing the work deem the application of anesthesia for these cases as a necessity as getting a child to set still for the dental treatments associated with cleaning up the mess is nearly impossible. Despite the reasons concern is a reality there are risks associated with using general anesthesia on the young including vomiting and nausea and even brain damage or death (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/06/health/rise-in-preschool-cavities-prompts-anesthesia-use.html?_r=2).

Past research into the topic had indicated that the rise of cavities in children were linked to conditions such as poverty, asthma and lack of access to professional dental care. But the latest news shows that parents and caregivers such as nannies are causing the dental health scenarios and ignorance is often to blame. Some caregivers erroneously believe baby teeth are less important than permanent teeth as they will   eventually fall out or are scared of causing emotional harm to children as the new oral hygiene behaviors may cause tantrums. Whatever the reason behind the faulty logic, it must be altered to help reverse the trend of preschoolers being plagued with dental problems.

Dental Neglect

Kids sure grow up fast and the eruption of a first tooth is often the first indicator of the fact. While newborns may look like little toothless bundles of joy, primary tooth development occurs in the womb. By a time a child is born, milk teeth are almost completely formed, but hidden under the gums with first tooth typically erupting between ages six and twelve months. That is why parents must start by implementing dental care on day one, but the ignorance surrounding this matter is believed to be contributing to the sad state of dental health for preschoolers.

Taking care of baby teeth starts prior to the first eruption; parents are encouraged to gently wipe down gums with gauze and water after every feeding to prevent dental plaque (the cause of tooth decay) from feasting on sugar deposits. Then once the first tooth erupts parents the practice of gently wiping down juniors’ gums to prevent and cavities and tooth  decay should continue until tooth two as that is the perfect time to start brushing and flossing junior’s teeth in order to get a kid acclimated for life.

Poor Nutrition

The world is filled with countless natural food choices to promote dental health including whole grains, fruits, vegetables and plant based protein sources. Despite the availability of these foods and the low price point parents and caregivers are feeding their kids an excess of processed junk food with empty calories at an early age and let their children graze all day long so that there is never a complaint about hunger. That has also prompted the slew of cavities and dental problems in preschoolers.

In regards to children and their diet, every bite counts. Parents need to accept the fact that it is there job to deliver proper nutrition to their children and that means water not soda in the sippy cups, pureed apples instead of candy and reducing the overall frequency of snacking as that causes oral pH level to decline sharply, coating the teeth in acid (putting tooth enamel at risk) until saliva production amps up and washes away the coating.

Professional Dental Care

Having a child is filled with mysteries, but knowing when to bring a child to a dentist for a visit should not be one of them. As previously mentioned, wiping gums can begin soon after first feeding and regular dental check ups need to start at the sign of a first tooth eruption. That visit will help junior get familiar with dental clinics (reducing chances of dental anxiety during their lifetime), provide a pediatric dentist with the ability to educate parents on how they can manage their children’s oral health better and give dentists the opportunity to deliver preventative dentistry in order to stave off tooth decay from becoming an issue.

Repairing the damage done by dental neglect in all its form can prove to be costly (the restorative treatments can cost thousands of dollars even the smallest of mouths), stressful (crying kids+dental treatments=anxiety) and can be a life altering experience. Caregivers who make a commitment to their child’s oral health can help reverse the trend of preschoolers and cavities.

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