Six Surprising Facts About Children’s Oral Health

child learning to brush teeth

Most parents would agree that their children’s health is a top priority. Less often discussed, however, is children’s oral health. However, oral health is closely related to the body’s overall health, which means that taking care of children’s smiles should also find itself at the top of the parental priority list. In fact, some of these facts about the oral health of American children might surprise you:

Tooth decay is common. When considering common childhood illnesses and health concerns, most people likely think of asthma, type 2 diabetes, and the obesity epidemic plaguing our nation. However, tooth decay– perhaps more commonly known as dental cavities– is significantly more prevalent than these other childhood conditions. In fact, tooth decay is 20 times more common than childhood asthma.

Tooth decay often goes undetected. Not only are cavities incredibly common in childhood, but many of them go undetected– and, as a result, are left untreated. It’s estimated that around 19 percent of kids ranging in age from 2 to 19 years old have untreated cavities. Left untreated, tooth decay continues to progress and can ultimately result in serious oral health concerns or even tooth loss. Because cavities aren’t always painful– particularly in their earliest stages– regular dental cleanings and check-ups are essential for children.

Untreated decay is a serious concern. Cavities that go undetected can lead to more than just an unsightly smile. Pediatric dental disease is a risk factor for a host of health problems, including various bacterial infections and even malnourishment. Thus, it’s important to detect cavities early, before they have a chance to progress and become serious health concerns.

Sports can be a dental health risk. When parents think of childhood sports, they likely daydream about Little League uniforms and tiny basketball shoes. What they’re less likely to consider, however, are the dangers sports-related injuries can pose to a child’s oral health. In fact, it’s been estimated that nearly 40 percent of dental injuries in children are related to sports– and especially teeth that are chipped or broken. This doesn’t mean that parents should immediately ban their children from playing organized sports, of course. It simply means that proper precautions should be taken, including wearing protective sports gear and mouth guards when appropriate.

Dental appointments often interfere with school. It might initially seem like no big deal to schedule your child’s dental check-up during the school day. Indeed, twice-yearly check-ups are unlikely to disrupt your child’s academic progress. However, appointments for more extensive dental work often do interfere with education. In fact, studies show that over 50 million hours are lost at school each year due to dental-related concerns. Of course, this does not mean that your child should skip his dental cleanings every six months. Instead, consider scheduling check-ups and cleanings during school breaks. Additionally, encourage your child to practice good preventive care at home so that he can avoid those cavity-filling appointments altogether.

Prevention pays off. Instilling good oral hygiene habits in your children early on can pay off big time in the future. It’s been estimated that each dollar spend on preventive care– in the form of toothpaste, floss, mouth rinse, professional cleanings, and check-ups– can save your child anywhere from $8 to $50 in restorative treatments and emergency dental care down the road. So, encourage your child to brush her teeth twice a day and to floss daily. Visit the dentist for professional cleanings and check-ups. Take good care of your own oral health so that you can serve as an example for your child.

For more information regarding your child’s oral health, contact us today. We look forward to helping you– and your child– achieve healthy smiles!

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