This pervasive threat to children’s health is tooth decay, and the numbers are rising—even though cavities are largely preventable. In fact, a shocking new survey released by the Ad Council shows that only 44 percent of American kids brush their teeth two or more times per day, leaving the majority of kids at high risk for costly and painful dental problems.
Some Children More at Risk
Low-income children suffer from decayed teeth almost two times as often as those with higher income, which may have to do with how quickly they receive treatment for tooth decay, and how often they brush their teeth. Only 40 percent of lower-income parents report that their kids brush their teeth twice or more daily, compared to 51 percent of parents with higher income. And about half of all children—and two-thirds of adolescents from lower income families—suffer from tooth decay.
But cavities have been on the rise in all income groups, as I’ve reported previously. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that tooth decay affects over one-fourth of two to five year-old children, and half of kids age 12 to 15.
How bad is the problem?
“Dental decay is the most common chronic childhood disease with more than 16 million kids suffering from untreated tooth decay in the U.S.,” Dental Trade Alliance Foundation CEO Gary Price said in a press release. He further added that kids miss more than 50 million hours of school (and parents lose 25 million hours of work) each week.
Decay can lead to complications including tooth loss, severe pain, chewing problems and tooth abscesses. Bacteria from gum disease can also enter the bloodstream, sometimes causing infections in other parts of the body, such as the heart. In rare cases, untreated cavities can actually be fatal in kids. Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died in 2007 from an infection that began with an abscessed tooth, but then spread to his brain.