One little, two little, three little... cavities? How about even more—and all found in the tiny mouths of toddlers.
Dentists nationwide say they are seeing an uptick in the number of toddlers and preschoolers coming in with six to 10—or more—dental cavities, reports The New York Times. In some cases, the level of decay is so severe that dentists recommend young patients undergo general anesthesia because they unlikely to be able to sit through such extensive procedures while they are awake.
Why the tooth trouble? Drinking bottled water rather than fluoridated tap water, frequent snacking (especially before bed), and endless sippy cups of juice may be part of the problem. But most dentists say the real culprits may be parents' unwillingness to enforce good tooth-brushing habits.
"Let's say a child is 1 1/2, and the child screams when they get their teeth cleaned," Dr. Jed Best, a pediatric dentist in Manhattan, tells The New York Times. "Some parents say, 'I don't want my little darling to be traumatized.' The metaphor I give them is, 'I'd much rather have a kid cry with a soft toothbrush than when I have to drill a cavity.'"
Has your baby been to the dentist yet? According to pediatric experts, infants should visit a dentist by age 1 to have their mouth structure evaluated and be assessed for future cavity risk, even if the child only has one or two teeth. As many dentists report, parents often say they weren't aware that they needed to take their infants to the dentist, or even that a baby's teeth needed brushing.
"I have parents tell me all the time, 'No one told us when to go to the dentist, when we should start using fluoride toothpaste'—all this basic information to combat the number one chronic disease in children," says Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in Augusta, Maine (via The New York Times).
Do those first baby teeth need brushing? Absolutely! According to guidelines from American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, starting from birth, parents should clean their child's gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. To prevent decay after teeth erupt, parents should start brushing twice daily using fluoridated toothpaste and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush.
Ah, just smell that minty fresh baby breath!