Health professionals and experts in pediatric dentistry are seeing an increase in the number of children with tooth decay and cavities.
The culprits are plentiful, and the decay often preventable, but the lack of education for parents is causing more children to end up in the dentists’ chairs with “owies.”
Dentists who focus on dental care for children said the use of fluoride, particularly added into tap water, helped prevent decay in children for several decades. But an explosion of people buying and drinking bottled waters and sodas, plus more sugar being added to food, has allowed decay to make a strong return.
“I see a lot more decay than in the ’80s,” said Dr. David Snodgrass, a pediatric dentist at Snodgrass and King, which has four offices. “We see at least one or two kids every day in each of our offices with rampant decay.”
More than half of children between 5 and 9 years of age have had at least one cavity or filling, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most communities have added fluoride to their tap water, though it also occurs naturally in water sources. The recommended amount of fluoride is 1 part per million parts of water, and cities test to see how much is in their system.
According to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Web site, about 93 percent of all communities in the state add fluoride to water.
The public can check to see if its utility adds fluoride at http://health.state.tn.us/oralhealth.
In more rural areas, where there are wells, residents may not get enough fluoride, and some communities decline to add it.
Dr. Charles Andrew Jordan, a pediatrician at Cumberland Pediatrics in Lebanon, said he would like to see all communities add it to the water, and then have conversations with the public about the benefits.
“I am in the job of preventing health issues, and if something as simple as adding fluoride to water helps, then I am certainly going to recommend it,” Jordan said. “Tooth decay not only affects teeth in early childhood, but teeth in the long term.”