What is your child’s mouth really telling you?
As a mother of three and grandmother of six, my family’s happiness and well-being is of utmost importance to me. Like so many of you, there is nothing better than seeing my granddaughters’ and grandsons’ smiles or hearing them burst into laughter.
However, for many children, those smiles are few and far between, because they are suffering from the pain of severe tooth decay.
Right now in the U.S., millions of children no longer naturally lose baby teeth or enjoy healthy adult teeth. They are suffering from tooth decay and gum disease early in life that carries over to their permanent teeth. A child with untreated pediatric dental disease faces a lifetime of suffering. It begins with pain and discomfort. They may find it difficult to eat, sleep or concentrate in school. As they age, their suffering worsens, and they experience greater pain, broken or lost teeth, abscesses, and life-threatening secondary infections.
Until recently, no one thought much about the connection between the mouth and overall health. However, recent studies link tooth decay to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, poor pregnancy outcomes, secondary infections and many other diseases. But that is only part of the story. A child who is in pain may not be able to eat a balanced diet. Vegetables and grains are more difficult to chew. In addition, a child may not be able to chew properly or long enough to promote good digestion, resulting in lost nutrients. The resulting lack of nutrition can lead to poor development, weakened bones and muscles, inability to concentrate, and other ailments.
Other side effects of pediatric dental disease include an unsightly appearance, which is a major factor in a child’s life, affecting their confidence, self-esteem and socialization. Bullying due to decayed teeth is a daily experience for millions of children and teens each year.
A child’s dental health also affects moms like you and I. Not only are millions of school hours missed annually due to dental pain, parents miss millions of hours of work time to take children to the emergency room or dental office for immediate treatment.
Despite the seriousness of the issue, there is good news. Pediatric dental disease is nearly 100% preventable. Children don’t have to get cavities, and there are a number of preventive measures you can take to protect your child against tooth decay: Make a habit of choosing healthy foods and beverages for yourself and your child. Drink fluoridated water. Make sure your child visits a pediatric dentist by age one and keeps regular dental checkups. Ask your child’s dentist about fluoride varnish treatments and dental sealants (a thin plastic coating painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth that form a protective shield over the tooth enamel). In the case of dental sealants, they are proven to reduce tooth decay by more than 60%.
Today is World Oral Health Day – a great day to assess your child’s dental health and make a commitment to take these simple steps to ensure your child never has to suffer the pain and embarrassment of tooth decay.
Need some help reinforcing positive oral health habits at home? Let the ToothFairy help! America’s ToothFairy provides a free Kids Club, Scout Patch Program, educational resources and youth service projects to help children and youth of all ages establish and maintain positive oral health behaviors. Learn more at www.AmericasToothFairy.org.