Last updated at 11:30 PM on 6th March 2012
The patients having serious dental surgery to treat progressively rotting teeth are getting younger and younger across the United States.
More and more preschool-aged children have to undergo serious dental surgery to remove multiple cavities- including a number of children who have had decay in up to 16 of their 20 baby teeth.
‘The most severe cases have 12 or 16, which is seen several times a week,’ Dr Megann Smiley, a dentist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio
While those in the industry have known about the growing trend for years, the issue is becoming more serious as dentists are commonly forced to put the young children under general anesthesia in order to take X-rays and treat the bad teeth.
Some criticize the use of the strong gas on such young children, but if the rotting is extensive enough, it may be necessary.
‘It seems like putting a match out with a fire hydrant,’ Dr. Smiley told The New York Times.
‘But if any of us tried to get 12 teeth treated, we wouldn’t think that’s small.’
The Centers for Disease Control issued a report in 2007 stressing the importance of diligent dental care for children as young as a year old, but that has done little to stop the downward trend of the average age in dentist waiting rooms.
Many of the causes have been common problems for years as well: children are too-often drinking sugar-filled juice drinks just before bed which leaves their teeth covered with the substance all night.
Pampering parents also opt for bottled water instead of tap water- likely thinking that it is better for their children when really it does less to help their teeth. Tap water is fluorinated which is specifically done to help prevent cavities, but when children are given non-flourinated water, their teeth miss out.
Another prevention technique that is frequently overlooked is a simple trip to the dentist for 1-year-olds. Though some feel this is too young an age to begin the lifelong ritual, dental professionals see it as a way to check if children’s teeth are particularly susceptible to cavities.
The most damaging contributing factor, however, is the fact that parents relent too easily when their young children complain about brushing their teeth twice daily.
Dr. Rochelle Lindemeyer, director of the pediatric dentistry at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, told The New York Times that the offending parents are confined to one socio-economic group.
She said that both poor and affluent parents give into the complaints of senstitive children more easily than they should when it comes to the issue of brushing their teeth.
‘Some parents say: “He doesn’t want his teeth brushed. We’ll wait until he’s more emotionally mature.” It’s baffling,’ she told the paper.