The Need for Oral Health Education
Although dental decay in early childhood is almost entirely preventable, it is the most common childhood disease, five times more common than asthma. Decay in the US has dropped for all age groups except preschoolers – rates of dental decay among young children continue to rise, with over 28% of preschoolers suffering from dental decay. The problem is more extreme amongst low-income children: they have three times the amount of decay.
Dental decay can affect the foods children choose, how they look, and the way they communicate. As children with severe dental decay grow into adults, dental decay can affect economic productivity and compromise an individual’s ability to concentrate at home, at school, or on the job.
Dentists know that severe decay in early childhood can affect an entire life – from not starting school ready to learn, to the impact of the permanent teeth coming in decayed or out of alignment, potentially causing jaw pain for the rest of their lives. Severe pediatric dental decay may prevent a a child from reaching their full potential.
- Children in our nation miss more than 51 million hours of school each year due to dental-related illnesses.
- Pediatric dentists say children with tooth decay don’t smile, don’t speak well and are inattentive in class. Even chewing food is an ordeal that can lead to gastrointestinal disorders and poor nutrition as the healthiest foods, like fruits and vegetables, are usually the hardest to chew.
- Because infected teeth pour pathogens into their systems, these children are prone to repeated ear and sinus infections and other illnesses. In some cases, children’s abscessed teeth have led to death.
- Without front teeth, it is very difficult for children to learn how to form words properly and this can have life-long effects on their speech.
- Early removal of any primary teeth can cause shifting in the permanent teeth below, resulting in serious misalignment of teeth. Severe decay of baby teeth can decay the permanent teeth still under the gums, leading to lifelong dental problems.
- Severe pediatric decay is more likely to occur in low-income families, who may also be impacted financially: parents of children with severe decay are four times more likely to miss work because their children are sick or in pain.