With the holidays upon us and sugary snacks, candies and beverages around every corner, dentists at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, one of the country’s largest hospital-based pediatric dental clinics, are warning parents that high-sugar diets are likely to blame for a spike in cavities among young children.
A recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that tooth decay in the primary, or baby, teeth of children two to five years of age increased from 24 percent to 28 percent between 1988-1994 and 1999-2004. Dentists at Nationwide Children’s Hospital say the trend is the worst it has been in decades, with no signs of slowing.
“The same factors that have led to the obesity epidemic are likely contributing to the increase in tooth decay among young children,” said Paul Casamassimo, DDS, MS, Chief of Dentistry at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “High sugar diets, frequent snacking and the substitution of juice and soda for milk are all taking a toll on our children’s teeth.”
Casamassimo says that although children will eventually lose their baby teeth, cavities still pose a serious health risk. Severe tooth decay in these very young children can lead to infections, resulting in pain, permanent damage to the teeth and gums and even death, and the cost of treating severe tooth decay can be expensive and time-consuming for families.
Dentists at Nationwide Children’s Hospital recommend parents limit their children’s exposure to sugar in the diet, and they recommend replacing sugared drinks, including soda and juice, with milk or with tap water, which provides fluoride protection typically not found in bottled water. Children should brush their teeth at least twice per day and limit snacking between meals. Finally, dentists say parents should take their children to the dentist as soon as their first teeth begin to appear.