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What Is The No. 1 Threat To Children’s Health?

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The number one health threat to children is tooth decay

Photography by NHOPHOTOS.com

The number one threat to children’s health is tooth decay. A shocking survey recently released by Ad Council reveals that only 44% of American kids brush their teeth two or more times per day. “Dental decay is the most common chronic childhood disease with more than 16 million kids suffering from untreated tooth decay in the U.S.,” Dental Trade Alliance Foundation CEO Gary Price said in a press release, further adding that kids miss more than 50 million hours of school (and parents lose 25 million hours of work) each week due to dental issues.

Tooth decay can lead to a slew of complications including; tooth loss, severe pain, chewing problems, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and tooth abscesses. Bacteria from gum disease can also enter the bloodstream, sometimes causing infections in other parts of the body, such as the heart. In rare cases, untreated cavities can actually be fatal in kids. A 12-year-old African American boy named Deamonte Driver died in 2007 from an infection that began with an abscessed tooth that spread to his brain.

Although the majority of parents surveyed realized that kids who don’t take care of their teeth properly are at greater risk of oral pain, fewer understood the correlation between poor oral health and overall health. Low-income children suffer from decayed teeth almost two times as often as those with higher income. Researchers attribute the lapse of time for receiving treatment for tooth decay and how often the children brush their teeth to the correlation. Only 40% of lower-income parents report that their kids brush their teeth twice or more daily, compared to 51 percent of parents with higher income. And about half of all children—and two-thirds of adolescents from lower income families—suffer from tooth decay. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that tooth decay affects over one-fourth of two to five year-old children, and half of kids age 12 to 15. The CDC recommends kids begin using toothpaste with fluoride when they’re two years old—but just a pea-sized dab is fine. (If kids under six swallow too much fluoride, they may develop white spots in their teeth.)

In addition to brushing, flossing daily helps remove food particles that toothbrushes can’t get to. Limiting sugary snacks is also important, especially in small children. Sending your baby to bed with a bottle is a mistake, as the sugar from the liquid can pool around their teeth, attracting bacteria which produces acids that damage teeth and lead to tooth decay. If your kids are under the age of two, you can help prevent tooth decay before they develop teeth. Dentists recommend removing cavity-causing bacteria by wiping your baby’s gum with a damp washcloth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children see a dentist when they get their first tooth, or on their first birthday—whichever comes first. The simplest way to prevent oral disease is by making sure kids brush their teeth twice a day—and since most kids can’t handle the toothbrush by themselves until they are 4 or 5, parents need to help them until they develop the skill necessary to brush by themselves. After that time, supervising your children to make sure they’re doing a thorough job is advised.

 

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