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Tooth Decay

"Tooth decay, even in the earliest stages of life, can have serious implications for a child's long-term health and well-being -- and it's becoming more of a problem every day," according to a 2005 article by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. It continued, "[a] recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comparing the dental health of Americans in 1988-1994 and 1999-2002 found a 15.2 percent increase in cavities among two- to five-year olds. In addition, the U.S. Surgeon General has identified tooth decay as the most common childhood disease.

"A possible contributor to this trend is the fact that only three out of five children visit a dentist at least once a year. While parents may avoid taking a child to the dentist to save money, studies show that children who have their first dental visit before age one have 40 percent lower dental costs in their first five years than children who don't, making preventive care a sound health and economic decision."

"Without preventive care, the impact of tooth decay on child development can be striking. A study in Pediatric Dentistry showed that children with cavities were significantly more likely to weigh less than 80 percent of their ideal body weight. Even more disturbing is evidence that the effects of poor oral health may be felt for a lifetime. Emerging research suggests that improper oral hygiene may increase a child's risk of having low-birth-weight babies, developing heart disease, or suffering a stroke as an adult."

Preventing Decay - Tips
Outside of regular dental visits, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry urges parents to do the following to help their children prevent tooth decay:
  •  Brush your child's gums twice a day with a soft cloth or baby toothbrush and water even before the first tooth appears.
  • Talk to your pediatric dentist about your child's fluoride needs. Infants require fluoride to help developing teeth grow strong, and children who primarily drink bottled water may not be getting the fluoride they need.
  • If you must put your child to sleep  with a bottle, use nothing but water - other beverages can damage teeth, leading to cavities.
  • Never dip a pacifier into honey or anything sweet before giving it to a baby.
  • The best times for your child to brush are after breakfast and before bed.
  • Limit frequency of snacking, which can increase a child's risk of developing cavities.
  • Take good care of your own teeth. Studies show that babies and small children can "catch" cavity-causing bacteria from their parents.