The Center for Disease Control and Prevention have cited tooth decay as the most chronic, yet preventable, childhood disease impacting our nation's children. The organization has indicated that one out of every five child between the ages of two and five are walking around with dental problems such as oral infection, cavities and tooth decay and additional research has shown that the odds of dental issues is directly linked to a child's birth right.
While certain religions may suggest individuals are born into caste systems or families because of greater powers, the reality is no one has control over who their parents are, where they are born and the lifestyle of the family they will be entering. Once that has been determined by fate, the odds of dental problems will be greatly influenced. Research has shown the odds of children's dental problems are greater for those kids who are part of low-income families, are obese or are of Mexican or African decent. Sadly, those are not the only criteria that can tip the scales of dental health against the favor of kids.
In North America, the Native Americans got a raw deal when the first crop of Europeans migrated to town. After that, the indigenous people suffered on the Trail of Tears, from diseases such as small pox and a myriad of other issues. Currently, the sad fate continues as research has indicated that Native American children (both in the US and Canada) have three times the rate of untreated cavities then kids from other ethnic backgrounds.
The findings came from a survey of 2,633 children aged 2 to 5 born to indigenous populations in the United States, Alaska and Canada. It was found that 68 percent of them had untreated cavities and in some Canadian communities, more than 90 percent of children had tooth decay (American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, May 30, 2011).
Those findings were backed up by another study of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Researchers analyzed the health of tribe members and found that 40 percent of children and nearly 60 percent of adults had declining dental health ranging from tooth decay to life threatening oral infections. The Checkup Study was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
If you just read this and wiped your brow in relief that you are not a Native American, you should reconsider your position especially if you live in Mississippi or Louisiana. A recent Gallup poll indicated that Southerners are less likely to visit the dentist at all, putting Southern children at risk for developing dental problems. The findings from this organization indicated that only 50 percent of Louisiana and Mississippi residents got their teeth cleaned in the last 12 months (according to a study released in September, 2011).
Poor dental health does not simply happen overnight. The process involves a mix of bad oral hygiene, lack of dental care education, eating an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. Sadly, those issues are exasperated by the poverty levels of all study participants and a shortage of dental care providers in the specific communities that were analyzed.
For decades, having dental insurance was a sure indicator of dental health. Sadly, the number of people opting into that coverage has sharply declined: prior to the recession, 100 million Americans skipped dental insurance and the numbers keep growing. The decline in dental coverage is linked to two factors, individuals are opting to skip paying for the coverage to save money and those who do have dental coverage are dismayed to find out that their policy tends to max out at a ceiling of around $1,500 (marking the potential death of dental insurance). The numbers of Native Americans and Southerners living in poverty is large, making the ability to afford dental care a moot point.
Instead, those individuals must rely on the kindness of strangers (who volunteer at free dental clinics) or on government initiatives (like water fluoridation) to boost the dental health of their offspring. The demand far outweighs the supply.
Fortunately, while Native American and Southern children are at the greatest risk of dental problems, caregivers can implement some affordable strategies to help reverse the trend. Practicing oral hygiene is a must; that includes a daily regime of brushing teeth two times for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least once a day to remove excess dental plaque (the culprit known for causing tooth decay) build-up. Water should be the main drink of choice for both parents and children, and eating less processed foods can also help.
Individuals lucky enough not to be born directly into any demographic known for having poor teeth and lackluster dental care are still at risk for developing dental problems. Not only should oral hygiene, eating nutritious foods and drinking water been on top of their lists, but those with the extra cash are wise to invest that money towards getting preventative dentistry in the form of annual exams. Seeing a dentist twice a year will allow for professional cleanings and examinations to catch any potential dental problems before the evolve into full-blown disasters. Individuals who need to find a dentist simply need to call 1-800-DENTIST, 24/7 to be matched with a great dentist up to the task.