While some people view pediatric dentistry as using regular orthodontic practices on smaller people, it’s an entirely separate and distinctive field. For this reason, it experiences its own trends and advancements, one of which is the alarming increase in tooth decay in children.
Tooth decay is the unpleasant effect of bacteria in the mouth growing rampantly and creating an acid that eats away at the teeth. Tooth decay is one of the most common issues in pediatric dentistry and, unfortunately, the number of pediatric tooth decay cases seems to be on the rise.
According to the CDC, tooth decay in children ages 2-5 was only seen in 18 percent of patients from 1988-1994, but then grew to 24 percent from 1994-2004. From there, the CDC found that in 2007, this same age range was experiencing tooth decay at a rate of 28 percent with no signs of stopping. At this point, many pediatric dentists began asking themselves why this was happening and what they could do to stop it.
One of the most popularly-theorized causes of tooth decay in young children is the popularity of sugary drinks and foods that are marketed to American youth. These sugary foods cause an increase in plaque which, when left untreated, quickly devolves into tooth decay and starts rotting teeth from the inside out.
Why are children eating such high-sugar foods? Well, a large part of it seems to be tied to lifestyle and socioeconomic class. For people who don’t have the time or money to create three home-cooked meals every day, fast food and fun cereals are convenient solutions that, unfortunately, have a high sugar concentration.
The good news is that this trend is entirely reversible with just a few simple steps. The first step is to, of course, ease back on the amount of sugar that children are consuming. This doesn’t mean that children can’t have any sugar, but most dental professionals recommend minimizing fast food consumption to once a week at most.
Furthermore, high-sugar diets wouldn’t be nearly as devastating if children were receiving proper dental care. This means that parents should be teaching healthy oral hygiene, e.g. brushing and flossing, as well as scheduling a child’s first visit to the dentist no later than their first birthday.
This may seem early, but as the numbers have shown, tooth decay won’t wait for a child to grow up before it starts causing problems. As an added bonus, early and frequent visits to a pediatric dentist will allow proper planning of a child’s oral care, whether that includes dental implants, Invisalign, or something else entirely.
No parent wants their child to suffer from painful tooth decay, and thankfully it’s an easy enough issue to avoid with proper planning and oral care. By minimizing a child’s exposure to sugary foods and scheduling early and frequent appointments with a pediatric dentist, there’s no need to let tooth decay continue to affect young children.