Killing cavities in threes
The nationwide problem of cavity and tooth decay among children is not new to the CNMI. It is, in fact, quite common, resulting in many of our little ones in our lives great discomfort and pain. Sadly, all of these could’ve been preventable with a little care and attention. Being in the midst of the National Children’s Dental Health Month, I reached out to several dental clinics around the island and solicited their thoughts on the observance of the month, and how we can help our kids have and maintain healthy teeth. I was able to narrow it down to what I’d like to call the “cavities and threes.”
When speaking to several dentists on island, many mentioned three common problems that can result in cavities, decay, and infection, especially among children. The first and most obvious is neglect when it comes to brushing and flossing. Often when speaking to these dentists, many express that they find it sad to see a child going through the unnecessary discomfort of tooth decay when things like the buildup of bacteria and plaque could’ve been prevented. One dentist said that a young child once came in with their whole set of teeth already decayed. She explained that for some children with an immense amount of decay, once the teeth are extracted, it would be hard for the child to chew properly as they wait for their adult set of teeth to grow.
A diet consisting of lots of sweets and acidic food/drinks can be a normal thing for many individuals, including myself, but this can also be a great push on the oral decline-coaster, with the chemicals in processed sweets and acidic foods contributing to not only the decline of oral but also overall physical health. Let me tell you, this doesn’t just apply to children; I made sure to note that down for my future reference as well. Goodbye to my iced latte.
Lastly, the dentists I spoke with said that children are often afraid of dentists because of what they’ve been told and how dentists are used as a scare tactic at times for kids. They try to earn or win the affection of a child by giving out candies and toys. Dentist often recommend that parents get their children used to regular visits to a dentist so that way children are less likely to freak out and see that dentists are actually helping them
Much like the three problems, there are three ways that can set children on a road to better oral health.
As mentioned earlier, dentists would recommend that children see them at least twice a year for a regular checkup and they added that they can help with children as young as infants, or as soon as the first tooth pops out. They also sympathize with the cost and added that, although sometimes just to have a regular dental visit may be costly for some without medical/dental insurance, and especially in these times of inflation, the good news is there have been many community outreaches (made by both private and public dental health organizations) that can help.
As for the diet, they suggest lessening sweets, or completely removing processed sweets from the diet and replacing it with natural sugars like fruits and other healthier snack choices like nuts cheese and lessen or even substitute sweet drinks with water and milk.
And of course, third and most importantly, the preventive maintenance: brushing and flossing teeth regularly. They suggest helping out children and seeing that their teeth are being cleaned on a regular basis to prevent tooth decay, cavities, and gum inflammation; and to also be a good example by keeping these habits ourselves.
With a large amount of dental healthcare options and outreaches in the CNMI, with a little attention and care we can provide our children with a healthier lifestyle and oral health.