While 75 percent of older kids can flash a cavity-free smile, tooth decay in preschoolers is actually on the rise. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that tooth decay in the baby teeth of kids ages 2 to 5 increased from 24 percent to 28 percent between 1988 and 2004.
Though the baby teeth aren't permanent, dentists warn that decay in those primary teeth often sets the pattern for the permanent teeth. The CDC's findings were part of the most comprehensive look at oral health data in the United States yet.
- Why are younger kids experiencing more decay while cavities in every other age group decline? Experts speculate that it's a combination of things:
- More kids are snacking on sweet foods and drinks at younger ages.
- Kids are drinking more bottled water, which is less likely than tap water to contain tooth-toughening fluoride.
- Preschoolers don't yet have the motor skills needed to brush their teeth properly.
To help prevent tooth decay in young kids, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends that children begin regular dental check-ups at about the time their first tooth comes in. While you're there, ask the dentist about your child's fluoride needs. And, of course, limit how often your child snacks - and how long the munching lasts - to limit the amount of sugar that comes in contact with those pearly whites.
Christina Elston is a senior editor and health writer for Dominion Parenting Media.
Posted June 2007
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