May 8, 2007: Children in the United
States, many of whom are already suffering from
the ‘epidemic’ of obesity, are now threatened with
another serious condition – young children are
getting more cavities in their baby teeth now than
they were a decade ago.
Despite the overall dental health of the United
States having improved, pre-schoolers today are
more likely to have cavities than children did in
the early 1990s, possibly because they are
drinking more soda water and juice drinks and less
milk and water with fluoride.
According to the most comprehensive government
report on oral health in 25 years, 28% of children
aged 2 to 5 had at least one cavity in their baby
teeth in 1999-2004 – up from 24% in 1988-1994.
The latest data come from a survey conducted by
the National Health and Nutrition Examination
Survey, which is considered the gold standard
because thousands of participants were interviewed
and examined by dentists.
Tooth decay in adults and children had been
falling since the 1960s, according to Bruce Dye, a
dentist and epidemiologist with the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center
for Health Statistics and the report’s lead
Baby teeth are just as important as adult teeth,
says Bruce Dye. Population studies have shown that
children who have cavities in their baby teeth are
more likely to have cavities in their adult teeth.
And, premature loss of baby teeth will more likely
create crowding problems for adult teeth.
Thought the study did not look into the causes for
the increase in cavities, Bruce Dye says that one
reason may be an increase in the consumption of
sweetened beverages and a decrease in the intake
of milk and fluorinated water.
Yet another key factor for tooth decay among
children could be the busy lifestyle. Parents are
less likely to spend those extra few minutes
brushing their young kids’ teeth, adds Bruce Dye.
Mary Hayes, a paediatric dentist and a spokeswoman
for the American Dental Association, advises
parents to brush their children’s teeth until the
kids are old enough to tie their own shoes.
Parents of pre-schoolers who want to do everything
themselves should brush their children’s teeth
first and then let the kids brush their own teeth.
A child should consume no more than 4 ounces of
juice a day, Mary Hayes instructs parents. She
says that she and her colleagues have been seeing
more cavities in children for the past decade and
that “it is horrifying that one in four kids is
The good news is that, overall, dental health in
the United States is improving, with fewer
cavities in older kids and teens and fewer adults
with gum disease.
The report by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics
* 50% of children aged 6 to 11 had at least one
cavity in their baby teeth in 1999-2004, down from
* 59% of adolescents, aged 12 to 19, had at least
one cavity in adult teeth in the most recent
survey, down from 68%.
BY OUR PHARMA CORRESPONDENT