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DENTAL HEALTH IN AMERICAN KIDS

Cavities in baby teeth, among children, on the rise in US

BY OUR PHARMA CORRESPONDENT


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 author.

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 getting cavities.”

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 found that:

* 50% of children aged 6 to 11 had at least one cavity in their baby teeth in 1999-2004, down from 51%.
* 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

 

 

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