Dentists are now seeing so many preschoolers with cavities and even severe tooth decay (6 to 10 cavities or more) that there’s been “a huge increase” in little kids who need general anesthesia for dental procedures, including tooth extractions, crowns and even root canals.
Yet with the right care, rotten teeth—and having to send two-year-olds to the hospital for costly and painful dental surgery—are largely preventable. What’s behind this scary trend?
Soaring Rates of Tooth Decay in 2 to 5 Year Olds
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sounded an alarm five years ago by reporting the first rise in 40 years of kids with cavities in their baby teeth. The largest spike was found among 2 to 5 year olds. In that study, the CDC reported that 28 percent of kids in that age group—of all income levels—had cavities, compared to 24 percent in a study conducted between 1988 and 1994.
Overall, 42 percent of kids ages 2 to 11 had cavities in their primary teeth, and there was also a significant jump in the number of cavities (or fillings) per child. What’s more, many of the kids had untreated decay, which can be extremely dangerous. Since then, the problem has only gotten worse, according to pediatric dentists around the US.
A Dangerous, Overlooked Health Threat
Featured in original Times article, Melody and Mathew Koester didn’t worry about their son Devon’s oral health until Melody noticed that that the then 18-month-old had discolored teeth. ““I had a lot on my mind, and brushing his teeth was an extra thing I didn’t think about at night.”
Dentists report that some parents don’t brush their toddlers’ teeth because their kids get fussy or cry. But tooth-brushing twice a day can spare preschoolers the much worse pain of the dentist’s drill. For Devon, his parents’ mistake resulted in a trip to the OR, as The New York Times reports:
“In the surgical wing of the Center for Pediatric Dentistry at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Devon Koester, 2 ½ years old, was resting last month in his mother’s arms as an anesthesiologist held a bubble-gum-scented mask over his face to put him under. The doctors then took X-rays, which showed that 11 of his 20 baby teeth had cavities. Then his pediatric dentist extracted two incisors, performed a root canal on a molar, and gave the rest fillings and crowns.”
A Perfect Storm of Cavity Risks