New York Times Spotlights the Devastation Caused by Dental Disease in Young Children – Oral Health Watch

In a Seattle-datelined story, a recent article in The New York Times brings greater attention to the increasing incidence and significant challenges of dental disease in very young children, and the need for increased prevention.

Preschoolers in Surgery for a Mouthful of Cavities” by Catherine Saint Louis begins by describing the extensive dental work – two extractions, a root canal, fillings and crowns – on 11 of the 20 baby teeth of a two-and-a-half year-old Stanwood, Wash., boy at the Center for Pediatric Dentistry in Seattle Children’s Hospital.

The article goes on to cite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and dental practitioners from Seattle to New York, Boston and other places around the country, who say they are seeing significantly higher numbers of preschoolers with extensive dental disease involving six to 10 cavities or more.

They note that the level of decay in such cases “is so severe that they often recommend general anesthesia because young children are unlikely to sit through such extensive procedures when they are awake.” The cost for such procedures ranges from $2,000 to $5,000 or more, some of the dentists say.

Among the many key points made in the article are:

  • Dental disease, the number one chronic disease in young children, is largely preventable.
  • Children should have their first oral health check-up by age one.
  • Parents should not allow children to engage in endless snacking or have juice or other sweet drinks at bedtime.
  • While children in lower income families may have a higher incidence of dental disease, it extends to all income levels.

The Times felt the story was so compelling that it was featured as the paper’s “Quotation of the Day” for its daily email synopsis of news headlines:

“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 No. 1 chronic disease in children.”

– Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in Augusta, Me.

You can find the full NY Times story here.

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