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Children’s Teeth Improving: Dental Care Works

December 4, 2016
Plain English Version

200245424-001A new study shows a drop in the number of children with bad teeth. The study director said, “Only ten percent of preschool kids have untreated tooth decay.”

The study covers only two years of findings. Still, the number of children with cavities remains high. In a study in the early 2000s, 28 percent of toddlers ages 2 to 5 had cavities. About eight years later, toddlers with cavities were down to 23 percent.

An expert said that nearly a quarter of young children still had an “infection that puts them at risk for having holes in their teeth.”

Things are getting better because more children are receiving dental care. Medicaid is helping to pay for dental care. Pediatricians are being trained to tell parents the importance of taking their infants and young children to the dentist.

Filling a cavity does not solve all the problems. The eating habits of children also are important. Limiting sugar-sweetened drinks would help. Limiting snacks is important. For example, chewing Cheerios all day leaves a harmful acidic coating on teeth.

The percent of children with cavities increases with age.  Among 6 – 8-year old children, 56% had cavities in their baby teeth. Among young adolescents (12 – 15-year olds), one-half had cavities in their permanent teeth. Two-thirds of older adolescents (16 – 19-year olds) had cavities in their permanent teeth.

Experts were surprised to learn that the rate of cavities went up not down, as children got older.

Hispanic and black children had higher rates of cavities. However, by the time children reached 12 to 19 years of age, there was almost no difference between the rates of minority children and white children.

The study shows that dental care works. But gains can be offset by behavior. Adolescents get distracted. They forget to brush. They are likely to eat more junk food.

As usual, the solution is more information provided to more people, more often.

Source: The New York Times March 5, 2015

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