Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Ounce of Prevention

When looking at some of the health issues that face our children today in the United States, what seem the most pressing?  Obesity definitely tops most lists for both children and adults.  However, right up at the top along side of obesity is tooth decay.  Poor diet choices, sweet drinks, over-consumption of bottled (non-fluoridated) water, and a lack of affordable dental care for millions of children in this country has contributed to what has now reached a crisis point.

Pediatricians recommend (as do Pediatric Dentists) a visit to the dentist around the first birthday - when those first baby teeth start to peek through the gums.  Early education for parents on caring for these teeth has proven to be the most beneficial and effective form of prevention of tooth decay.  Some of the bacteria that can cause cavities is actually "contagious".  Many well-meaning parents share utensils and toothbrushes with their young children, with the mindset that the germs will help boost their baby's immune system.  In reality, they are actually contributing to the greater potential of their child developing cavities in the near future.  Visiting the dentist early will also educate the family on many other factors such as weaning off the bottle or breast, teething, habits and other dental health issues faced in the early years.

Diet plays such a crucial role in dental health. On our recent dental mission to Peronia, Guatemala, we saw firsthand how much damage sodas and sugar can do to children's teeth.  In areas of Guatemala like Peronia, where there is no central water system, water is trucked in and put in large containers for purchase. Shockingly, this water is more expensive than soda, and consequently the children there consume more soda than water.  We saw severe decay in the teeth of children who only had their teeth a couple of years - some children could have had all of their teeth removed with the amount of decay they had.  Of course a lack of preventative measures like brushing and flossing (some had never had a toothbrush) contributed to the decay, but the acid and sugar from the soda was part of the perfect recipe for the demise of their teeth.

Don't panic if you have a two year old and have yet to see a dentist, but your child's dental health is a crucial part of the overall big picture of their well being.  It is always good to establish yourself with a dentist you trust early in your child's life for their regular checkups and cleanings - as well as any emergencies that may arise - just as you do a pediatrician.  Together, you can make decisions about his or her diet and care that will benefit them for a lifetime.

No comments:

Post a Comment