The declining state of oral health among youngsters age five and under is being called a “public health crisis” by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD).
Early childhood caries (cavities) is now the most common chronic early childhood disease in the U.S. The rate of dental decay among children ages two to five has increased dramatically, and by age five, a whopping 60% of all children in the U.S. will have had caries.
Poor children age nine and younger are at highest risk, with low-economy youngsters being twice as likely to have cavities as those in higher economic groups -- and the decay is more likely to go untreated. The result is painful teeth that can ultimately affect a child’s ability to sleep, pay attention in school -- and even attend school. Dental decay also makes children more vulnerable to various other infections, including the ears, sinuses and even the brain.
But for any child, regardless of economic background, early dental care is paramount to overall health. One of the key reasons for this childhood epidemic of cavities is not seeing a dentist early enough. The AAPD recommends that children get their first dental exam as soon as their first tooth appears -- but no later than their first birthday.