What is the most common chronic childhood disease in the United States?
Dr. George Schwartzenburg
The answer is tooth decay or cavities. The medical term used for this condition is dental caries which is Latin for tooth “rottenness”. Cavities occur when bacteria in the mouth break down and damage the hard surface of the tooth. Frequent snacking and sugary drinks increase the chance of getting cavities which is more common in the developed world due to the abundance of these types of food products.
There are several ways to fight tooth decay. The latest recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is to use a grain of rice size of fluoride toothpaste when children start having teeth erupt. After three years old, this can be increased to a pea sized amount of toothpaste. After six years old, over the counter fluoride rinse can be used if the child can rinse without swallowing the fluoride. When teeth first start erupting, a fluoride varnish is recommended every 3-6 months. The fluoride varnish can be applied by your child’s doctor or dentist.
It is always better to prevent disease when we can. We should push healthy snacks and stop sugary drinks and milk before bed. With regular fluoride treatments and check-ups with your child’s doctor and dentist, our kids’ teeth will be healthier. If we can prevent tooth “rottenness”, kids and their parents will have more reasons to smile!