Although the general trend is positive, young members of minority communities continue to have the highest amount of tooth decay and the highest number of untreated caries, the CDC found in its latest study on tooth decay. The findings were based on national data collected from youth who lived in the United States between 2 and 19 years old, compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics.
The highest prevalence of total and untreated cavities was found among Hispanic and non-Hispanic young blacks, according to the study, published on Friday. Young Hispanics had the most caries (52%) compared to black (44.3%), Asian (42.6%) and white (39%) youth. Young blacks had the most untreated caries (17.1%) compared to young Hispanics (13.5%), whites (11.7%) and Asians (10.5%).
The implications of poor oral health are very varied, experts say. Dental caries is the most common chronic disease among young people aged 6 to 19 years. If left untreated, they can cause pain and infection.
In very rare cases, tooth decay has the potential to be deadly. The study's author, Dr. Eleanor Fleming, cited the case of the 12-year-old Deamonte Driver, who died in 2007 of a serious brain infection caused by tooth decay.
If baby teeth have untreated caries, they can have negative implications on adult teeth. It can also prevent permanent teeth from growing properly, according to Fleming, a dentist and part of the Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys of the National Center for Health Statistics.
Tooth decay can lead students to skip school, "Not being able to chew properly and not be able to talk and communicate effectively because of pain," he said.
For many young people, "the most important aspect of how caries impacts you is that it affects your academic performance," said Dr. Roseann Mulligan, badociate dean and professor at the Herman Ostrow School of the University of the South. Of California. Odontology.
If he feels uncomfortable constantly, his ability to concentrate and study suffers, said Mulligan, who did not participate in the new report.
Why are minorities at greater risk?
Mulligan cited several reasons why Hispanics and young blacks may have the highest prevalence of total and untreated cavities, including socioeconomic status, educational level, and access to health care.
"The prevalence of dental total [cavities] decreased as family income levels increased, from 51.8% for youth from families living below the federal poverty level to 34.2% for young people from families with income levels greater than 300% of the federal poverty level ", according to the CDC study .
"The prevalence of untreated dental treatment [cavities] decreased from 18.6% for young people from families living below the federal poverty level to 7.0% for youth from families with incomes greater than 300% of the poverty level. federal poverty ", study found.
To address this problem, medical professionals go to communities to provide access to oral health care, educate families and children about the importance of oral health and help families find dental clinics those that have access.
This means finding clinics that accept these families, whether they have insurance or not, and that are geographically close enough for them to visit, said Mulligan.
& # 39; We need to think more widely & # 39;
The most important step is to help families bond with oral health, he said, including placing resources so people know they exist. Even if families are eligible for public insurance, they may not know how to obtain it or understand which dentist or clinic their insurance will allow. Insurance can be very difficult to navigate, said Mulligan.
Social problems often prevent families from focusing on oral health, be it physical, financial or otherwise.
"If we do not have multiple efforts, then I do not think we're going to solve this problem, we have to think more broadly," in a holistic way, said Mulligan.
Families have many conflicting priorities: getting food, paying bills, facing the disease, and this can make oral health care fall into the background. This is why it is important to help families address any problems that may prevent them from seeking oral health care, Mulligan said.
Steps to good dental health
According to the CDC, there are several simple steps parents can take to help ensure good oral health for children:
- Find a dentist if your child needs it.
- Protect your child's teeth using fluoride (children under 2 should not use fluoride toothpaste unless recommended by a doctor or dentist).
- As soon as your child's first tooth appears, talk to a medical professional about fluoride varnish. 19659034] If your drinking water is not fluoridated, ask a medical professional if your child needs oral fluoride supplements.
- Talk to your child's dentist about dental sealants.
- Have your child visit a dentist for a first checkup at the age of 1.