Fluoridation down, cavities up in toddlers teeth

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An article in today s New York Times features a photograph of a tiny child being anesthetized before operation. It also recounts the story of a mother whose three-year-old daughter was strapped down from head to ankle to immobilize her during a procedure.

These are unsettling scenes, indeed. But more disconcerting is that these toddlers were having root canals and mouthfuls of cavities filled procedures that may not have been necessary had their parents not eschewed fluoridated tap water and regular toothbrushing.

As Catherine Saint Louis reports for the Times, dentists nationwide are now more frequently filling six to 10 or more cavities at once in the mouths of preschool-age children. In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted an increase in the number of preschoolers with cavities the first such increase in 40 years.

But dentists explain that multiple cavities are very much preventable, starting with a visit to a pediatric dentist after the child s first year, in order to assess cavity risk. Parents can also diminish their children s risk of cavities by making sure that they re brushing their teeth twice a day, curbing constant snacking, and, finally, not avoiding fluoridated water. As we ve noted before, it makes more sense to fear water without fluoride than with it. According to Dr. Ross, preschoolers should not drink only bottled water, since they stand to benefit from fluoridated municipal tap water.

Since the mid-twentieth-century introduction of fluoridated tap water, the incidence of tooth decay in the U.S. has been radically lowered. No longer are people losing most of their teeth by age 40. Unfortunately, renewed distrust of fluoridated water has resulted in a growing number of cities foregoing the benefits and an increase in dental problems is the result, especially in underprivileged communities where ready access to dental care is often lacking.