In the modern, fast-paced society in which we live, it is sometimes nice to nostalgically look back on a time when life was simpler, slower and far less hectic! Still, while thinking back on a time when technology did not seem so pervasive may have some appeal, there are some aspects of returning to bygone days that can be quite troubling.

Unfortunately, we may be experiencing one of those troubling time reversals when it comes to the level of tooth decay in young children.  In a recent study, some pedodontists have reported that the levels of tooth decay are worse than they have been for approximately 40 years.

This is proving to be a major concern for a number of reasons.

The pain, discomfort and illness associated with poor oral health is one of the major reasons for missed school time in North America today. Unfortunately, this tends to have a negative impact upon academic performance as well.

When a child’s oral health is compromised, even if it is with their “baby teeth”, the impact can be felt on adult teeth that have not yet started to grow. That means the chance of such children maintaining their natural teeth for most of their lives is dramatically reduced.

The link between overall health and oral health is becoming increasingly well documented. You can be reasonably certain that the bacteria that are compromising the structure of your children’s teeth may also be affecting their overall health.

Most surprisingly, the poor level of oral health may actually be affecting the length of wait times in hospitals. Children who require dental procedures to attempt to rectify their poor oral health are more likely to require sedation. That often means they need to attend at a hospital for treatment. The more children going to the hospital for preventable dental conditions, the longer wait times become for everyone!

Notice how we mentioned “preventable dental conditions”.  The pedodontists in this study attributed the increase in decay to a number of lifestyle developments. These include:

  • letting young toddlers drink sugary juices from a sippy cup;
  • removing fluoride from water, either at the city level or by drinking bottled water; and
  • allowing children to brush their own teeth unsupervised.

Truth is, parents need to be brushing the teeth of their children aged 6 and under. Young children simply lack the patience and coordination required to brush properly.

In fact, at Rideau Dental Centre, we recommend that parents continue to closely supervise their children at least until 9 years of age.  Allow your children the opportunity to do the first brushing themselves while you watch. Otherwise, they will never learn the proper technique. However, parents need to follow up with a proper brushing to ensure the removal of as much bacteria as possible.

The good news is that up until recently, the trend was that we had succeeded in reducing the levels of childhood tooth decay. While this trend has, sadly, been reversed, undoing some of the behavior that led to this reversal should get us back on track. For the sake of our children, it is a step we should all be willing to take. Because reducing the levels of childhood tooth decay is a health habit…and healthy habits lead to healthy lives.

Dr.  David Lui

Dental Surgeon