Fluoride Action Network

Niagara: Cavities remain stubbornly high in young children

Source: Niagara This Week - St. Catharines | April 24th, 2014 | By Paul Forsyth
Location: Canada, Ontario

Sugar-laden drinks one cause of cavities: report

Stubbornly high rates of tooth decay among young children despite increasing access to dental care highlights the need for Niagara parents to be better informed about preventative dental care, regional politicians heard on Tuesday.

In a new report to the Region’s public health committee, regional staff said the total number of preventative services such as sealants, fluoride treatment, scaling and sealants provided to Niagara elementary school students has soared from 1,410 in the 2009/2010 school year to 4,112 services in the last school year.

Despite that, rates of tooth decay, missing or filled teeth among kindergarten kids in Niagara has remained virtually unchanged, with about 29 per cent of kids affected by those dental problems.

The Region’s public health department provides oral health services such as fillings, tooth cleaning and fluoride application to kids without dental insurance at six dental clinics, and in 2012 launched a mobile dental clinic in an RV that visits schools and community agencies.

“Unfortunately, the prevalence of decayed, missing or filled teeth among kindergarten children in Niagara has not changed in recent years, despite the increased access to various publicly funded dental programs,” said the new staff report submitted by Niagara’s medical officer of health, Dr. Valerie Jaeger.

Two years ago, chief Ontario medical officer of health Dr. Arlene King released a report reinforcing the link between dental health and overall physical health. She said preventable cavities are five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever among kids and teens.

Cavities in kids, caused by bacteria that colonize the tooth surface and produce acid that attacks the enamel, can lead to infections, pain, chewing problems, poor nutrition, gastrointestinal disorders, and missed school, King said.

The new regional report said untreated tooth decay can be “devastating” to children, impacting their long-term health, education, self-image and overall success. Dental cavities are the most common chronic disease of kids and teens aged six to 19, the report said.

At the time of King’s report being released, a St. Catharines dental who specializes in pediatric dentistry told this newspaper he’s seeing kids as young as age two or three with mouths full of cavities — something he called a crisis.

Regional staff said many Niagara residents wrongly believe the municipal water supply in this region is fluoridated.

The staff report also pointed to the sugar-loaded sippie cups many young kids drag around with them all day, leading to tooth decay.

The report said the statistics show the importance of educating parents about limiting sugary snacks and drinks, feeding their kids healthy food, getting their kids in to see a dentist by age one, and brushing their kids’ teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.

Overall, about 35.5 per cent of elementary students in Niagara had decay or missing or filled teeth in the last school year, down from almost 43 per cent six years earlier, the report said.

“Despite the downward trend, the current (cavities) rate is still unacceptably high for all grades,” the report said.