Tooth decay, also known as dental caries, is the destruction of the tooth enamel. The tooth enamel is the hard, outer layer of the tooth. Tooth decay can affect anyone. Next to the common cold, tooth decay is next in terms of the most common diseases in our lifetime. But it has proven to be more concerning in children. According to the American Dental Association, tooth decay is the single most common continuing disease in children. It is more common than asthma, childhood obesity, and diabetes.
Here are some more facts about tooth decay that we should never ignore:
1. Tooth decay affects our children’s growth and development. Severe tooth decay can have serious consequences on your child’s nutrition, speech and jaw development, and learning, among others. Recent studies also show that children suffering from tooth decay and other oral diseases have an increased risk to develop lung or heart disease and diabetes in the long run.
2. Tooth Decay itself is not contagious. The bacteria that cause tooth decay, though, can be shared and passed on from one person to another. It is also important to note that infants are not born with tooth decay-causing bacteria in their mouths. The tooth decay-causing bacteria are transmitted through saliva from mothers, caregivers, or family members by way of kissing, or when sharing utensils, etc.
3. If tooth decay is left untreated, it can lead to pain, severe infection, and eventual loss of teeth. Children with tooth decay often cannot eat or sleep properly, and sometimes, even perform poorly in school and other activities.
4. Due to the infection and pain brought about by the tooth decay, a child will tend to miss school days. It affects the child’s performance and general childhood activities. The sad fact about it is that tooth decay is preventable in the first place.
5. An abscess from tooth decay can cause serious or even life-threatening infections when not properly treated. In extreme and rare cases, tooth decay can even cause death. An infection in an upper back tooth can spread to the sinus behind the eye, which in turn can enter the brain and cause death.
6. When left untreated, tooth decay can also be a cause of a child’s loss of self-confidence. Aside from tooth decay being not healthy, it also looks and sometimes, smells bad. Your child may not want to smile as often, talk, or interact with others to avoid teasing from friends and playmates.
It is much easier and less painful to prevent tooth decay in kids than to repair or replace their decayed teeth. Help in taking care of your child’s teeth and gums by practicing proper and regular oral hygiene as a family. Brushing and flossing for two minutes each time and twice on a daily basis will surely make a difference. Encourage healthy eating habits for your child and family in general.
Make sure also to visit your child’s dentist regularly for oral examination and professional cleaning. Lastly, talk with the pediatric dentist about the use of supplemental fluoride and dental sealants to protect your child’s teeth from decay.
Tooth Decay, ADA Patient Smart Patient Education Center (https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/ADA_PatientSmart_Tooth_Decay.pdf?la=en)
Fast Facts, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry 2014 (https://www.aapd.org/assets/1/7/FastFacts.pdf)
Tooth Decay, RaisingChildren.Net.Au under the Australian Parenting Website (https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/health-daily-care/dental-care/tooth-decay)
Dental Caries (Tooth Decay), Dental Health Foundation in Ireland (https://www.dentalhealth.ie/dentalhealth/causes/dentalcaries.html)