The Silent Epidemics Affecting our Nation’s Children

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We focus in our office on treatment of sleep disorders, especially for children.  For kids, there are very serious consequences, such as learning disabilities, cardiovascular disease, neuro-cognitive problems, phonetic and even behavioral problems.  In our view, it’s #1 on the list of health problems we can identify and help treat – and there are a lot of children who need help.

But from a strictly dental standpoint, if we were to ask you what is the most common disease affecting children in our country today, would you believe it’s actually tooth decay?

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the number one chronic illness that is affecting children today is severe tooth decay. What is astonishing about this fact is that tooth decay is entirely preventable.  Then why are so many of our children plagued with this serious disease, and what can we do about it?

What’s the big deal with a cavity if it can be filled?

The problem with decay is that, if allowed to progress, it can lead to emergency surgery, secondary infections, anemia, malnourishment, and even death! Sadly, more than 40% of children develop cavities by the time they reach kindergarten.

Once a child begins experiencing poor oral health, his life is forever impacted. Self-confidence may begin to suffer, as well as his social life and even employment prospects in the future, not to mention an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, or stroke during adulthood.

Children with poor oral health also are likely to not eat as well and receive inadequate nutrition. This in turn can impact their ability to learn and perform well in school or sports, as well as significantly affect their growth and development. Behavioral disorders have also been linked not only to sleep disordered breathing, but also to poor oral health in children. With such startling facts, how can we be silent any longer?

Oral health involves a good regimen of oral care at home, as well as routine dental visits at least twice a year beginning when a child’s first tooth erupts or by his or her first birthday. (No, that’s not too young!) Parents need to help with brushing for the first several years, and the child should do it as well.  A balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables, and one that is low in sugar and refined carbohydrates will help promote good oral health. Parents should begin these healthy habits with their child early in life, and be sure to set a good example for them to follow by caring for their own teeth as well.

Sealants are a protective coating on teeth that also help to prevent tooth decay.  Ask us if your child would benefit from these treatments.

Dr. Brian Hockel and Dr. Rebecca Jardine are proud to serve patients from Walnut Creek, Clayton, Concord, and Lafayette, California, as well as from the greater San Francisco East Bay area and beyond.