Dental caries, tooth decay, even plain old cavities. No matter what name you prefer, we seem to be turning a negligent eye to this silent and growing problem. A problem that is currently sweeping the nation and continuing to rise in its targeted group: children and youth. The NIDCR has said that dental caries is the most common chronic disease among youth aged 6-19 with 45.8% of them having treated or untreated dental caries.
There are many factors that contribute to a child’s odds of having dental caries such as the child’s genetics, the environment where he or she is living and/or his or her behavior in regard to personal hygiene and eating habits. Most of the time, the effects of these factors can be mitigated by daily oral hygiene as well as consistent visits to the dentist where they can get more information and regular teeth cleanings.
However, there are other factors that are not so easily managed: economic status and access to dental care. These factors are often overlooked despite the fact that they greatly increase a child’s chance of getting dental caries. Certain demographics cannot afford regular visits to the dentist, restricting their access to necessary information and services. When children have dental caries at a young age it can potentially lead to more dangerous health problems such as gum disease, periodontitis or tooth loss and affect the rest of their lives.
Implementing preventative habits such as brushing teeth daily and flossing is the first step in fighting against dental caries. In addition, limiting the consumption of sugar can lessen one’s chance for dental caries1. We must take an honest look at how to mitigate these factors if this silent epidemic is going to be understood and stopped.
1 Riva Touger-Decker, Cor van Loveren; Sugars and dental caries, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 78, Issue 4, 1 October 2003, Pages 881S–892S, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/78.4.881S