Though Americans have access to some of the finest dental care on the planet, American babies are showing increasing rates of dental decay. There are a number of causes. First, the tremendous popularity of bottled water has played a part in higher cavity rates (bottled water is typically not fluoridated). Ironically, tap water is healthier than the pricey bottled options. Second, the prevalent reliance on juices, sweet drinks and milk for children – all high in sweeteners such as sugar and high fructose corn syrup – has contributed to the decay problem. And, finally, studies indicate that dental decay likely begins before children even have their teeth. Infants’ mouths and gums should be wiped clean and gently stimulated with a washcloth several times daily, even before their first tooth breaks. Interestingly, decay can begin in the womb. It turns out that a mother’s dental care regimen has a direct impact upon the developing dentition of her unborn baby. So, if the mother isn’t flossing, rinsing, and brushing consistently, or is following a diet that encourages bacterial growth (e.g. one high in grains and sugars), this can create early dental problems in the child. Though baby teeth are “disposable”, poor prevention and early decay impacts the strength, straightness, and health of the permanent teeth. Moreover, early gum problems can set the stage for systemic illness down the road.
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Photo Credit: Andrew Bain