Toddlers Are Skipping the Dentist

Cynthia Dermody
15

 

Photo by peajewel

A disturbing new report is out -- one in four children in the U.S. haven't been to see a dentist in the last year. Is your child one of them? Because, according to this report, toddlers skip regular dental checkups more than kids of all other ages.

And, while lack of health insurance is certainly one reason, it's not the only reason, according to researchers at the South Carolina Rural Health Research Center at the Arnold School of Public Health. More than two-thirds of parents surveyed consider their children's teeth in very good or excellent condition, which, according to the report, is not reality.

Sure, baby teeth almost always look white and healthy from a mom's perspective. But looking casually into a child's mouth, you just don't see the bad stuff, says Jan Probst, director of the South Carolina Rural Health Research Center. She says that as soon as your children have teeth, they should start going to the dentist regularly.

"Children don't exactly bare their whole teeth to you, and unless you are looking carefully while you help them brush their teeth, you don't see small spots that are the signs of big trouble," she says.

Why should we worry about baby teeth if they are going to fall out anyway? Here's why:

Baby teeth are placeholders for adult teeth. If they become decayed and have to be removed, permanent teeth can grow in at strange angles and positions, requiring braces later on. And, once bacteria are already in the mouth, damage to permanent teeth is more likely.

The mouth is also usually the first place where signs of other diseases show up, which is why dentists screen the mouth and throat during normal checkups, says Dr. Amy Brock Martin, lead author of the report. "We have a sad case in South Carolina where a child presented himself to his school nurse, who looked in his mouth and found something that didn't look quite right," Brock says. "They got the child to a dentist, who diagnosed him with cancer."

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