A Childhood Disease That’s Nearly 100% Preventable

The most common chronic condition among children is 100% preventable. And yet, it’s not breaking news or stealing headlines. Cavities are four times more common than childhood asthma. But, we rarely think about how we can prevent cavities in our children. That’s why we’re spreading awareness about how poor oral health and cavities impact our kids’ health and quality of life. We can change the fact that 20 percent of children 5 to 11 years of age have untreated tooth decay. We can help other parents understand that fluoride varnish can prevent about one-third of cavities in baby teeth. And we can save kids from the overall health concerns and lifetime of dental problems that are associated with poor oral health at a young age. Learn why it’s so important to prevent tooth decay in kids and set them up for a lifetime of healthy habits.

You may have heard a friend or colleague say that bad teeth run in their family. Unfortunately, poor brushing and flossing habits are really what’s being passed down each generation. Research proves that poor oral health isn’t genetic. "If people think the health of their teeth is down to their genetic make-up, they may not be prepared to make important lifestyle changes," Murdoch Children's Research Institute’s Dr. Silva said.

Her research illuminates how important it is for pediatricians and other health professionals to educate children. Starting preventive measures early in life is critical to having a healthy mouth and avoiding dental problems in the future. Preventive care teaches kids to take care of their teeth while they’re healthy, so they don’t have to worry about the onset of tooth decay.

The Consequences of Cavities

Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning. Children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who don’t. Research shows that when kids are absent, their performance is directly negatively impacted. The more school a kid misses, the worse their performance will be.

In addition to lowered attendance and performance, our self-esteem also takes a hit when we have tooth decay.  After studying children from 14 participating schools, researchers found that dental health and happiness were linked. More specifically, dental health has a substantial influence on self-esteem. Dental health impacts a child’s ability to “accept the worthiness of oneself.”

Proper oral health care decreases the number of harmful bacteria in the mouth. Bacteria in our mouths adversely affect more than just our oral health. Endocarditis, pneumonia, cardiovascular disease, and birth complications are all linked to poor oral health. The risk of cardiovascular disease is 34% higher among people with periodontal disease.

The consequences of poor oral health follow our children throughout their lifetime. They extend from the mouth to the body, and start impacting work, performance, relationships, and self-confidence.

What Makes a Healthy Mouth

Here are our expert tips for ensuring your kids have a healthy mouth and smile for a lifetime to come:

  • Before baby has teeth, clean their gums with a soft cloth.
  • When teeth appear: brush teeth with a small, soft toothbrush with a grain of rice sized drop of fluoridated toothpaste and clean gums with a soft cloth.
  • At age one, baby should see a dentist by his or her first birthday
  • At age three, brush teeth with a pea-sized drop of fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Wipe teeth when finished until child can rinse and spit.
  • Eat right for dental health.
  • Never dip a pacifier in sugary substances or put sweetened liquids in a baby bottle.
  • Do not leave your child unattended with a baby bottle, especially at bedtime.
  • Limit sugary foods and drinks, especially sticky foods such as raisins and fruit roll-ups.
  • See your dentist and health care provider regularly!
  • Your child should start regular visits to the dentist by age one. The dentist will look in your baby’s mouth and talk to you to determine if they are at risk for dental disease.
  • Parents should see a dentist regularly to keep their mouths clean and limit the cavity-causing bacteria in their mouths which can easily transfer to babies.
  • Take oral health seriously from the start and you can prevent a serious disease from ever taking hold.

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