Kids’ Cavities On Rise
For a parent, what’s worse than hearing the dentist say, “Your child has a cavity”?
“Your child has cavities.” Unfortunately, that’s what Dr. Jason Gambill, owner of Pediatric Dentistry of Shreveport-Bossier, has been saying lately.
And he has an idea why. “We had a total shutdown of our practice last year, from about mid-March to the end of April,” Dr. Gambill said, referring to the start of the pandemic. “So obviously, there was a lot of routine care we didn’t see.”
But parents have started taking their children back to the dentist, making up for lost time and trying to get their kids back on schedule.
“Most of those people that missed appointments and put off care have come back in slowly over the last six or eight months since we’ve been back open,” Dr. Gambill said. “But one of the things I have seen in some of those people that didn’t want to come in or didn’t want to get out, and didn’t want to receive routine care even after we opened up: In some of those kids I’ve seen an increase in the size of their cavities and the number of their cavities. It was a weird time. People were home, and maybe their diet was a little different than it normally would have been.”
What does a child’s diet have to do with their teeth? Well, it’s not so much what children eat – it’s what they drink.
“One of the things that I think goes unnoticed, that a lot of people think is no big deal, is that we see a lot of cavities from sugary liquids,” Dr. Gambill said. “Your fruit juices that may have sugar in them, sodas, things like that. I hear parents say all the time, “My kid doesn’t eat very much candy, so they don’t have any cavities.” Well, does your kiddo drink apple juice five or six times a day? I’m a little more worried about the kids who are doing that than the kids who may have a piece of candy as a treat every now and then. We see a lot of kids who will drink milk, or chocolate milk, or liquids that have sugar in them, and those coat the whole teeth if you have a lot of exposure to that multiple times a day. That’s where we really see some kids get a lot of cavities – thinking that they’re not too worried about the liquids they’re consuming. They’re more concerned about whether they had a piece of candy or not.”
Dr. Gambill, who has four young children, runs a tight ship at home – practicing what he preaches.
“I really don’t think there’s a need for kids to drink sodas, if you really want me to be honest with you,” Dr. Gambill said. “That’s not something we do at my house, and I recommend my patients not have sodas and things of that nature.”
But if your child is determined to drink juice, Dr. Gambill suggests keeping it to a minimum.
“Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that if you’re going to have juice, just have it one time a day – four to six ounces – and drink it with a meal. What we see is if kids can just go grab a juice or whatever out of the fridge all day long, that’s multiple exposure throughout the day. That’s going to lead them to be more cavityprone than if a kid has one glass of juice with a meal.”
There’s something else pandemicrelated that Dr. Gambill thinks may have led to children having an increase in cavities. By not going to the dentist, they missed out on hearing from an expert on the importance of taking care of their teeth.
“When you’re on a routine – coming to the dentist every six months – and then you’re reminded, ‘Oh, yeah, I need to be brushing and flossing,’ sometimes people drift into bad habits,” Dr. Gambill said. “Maybe not brushing twice a day, then not doing it last thing before they go to sleep. One thing we don’t want to see is kids brushing their teeth at six o’clock, then having a snack and something to drink before they go to sleep. I think just coming to see us – a reminder about how they’re supposed to be brushing, how they’re supposed to be flossing – just instills good habits. When you’re not in that routine, we see kids that just kind of drift off into bad habits.”
To learn more about Pediatric Dentistry of Shreveport-Bossier, you may visit www.kidsmilesrus.com.