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Dentists: Pandemic Schedules May Make Kids More Cavity-Prone

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According to the CDC, populations disproportionately affected by the coronavirus are also at higher risk for dental problems and oral disease. (Adobe Stock)
According to the CDC, populations disproportionately affected by the coronavirus are also at higher risk for dental problems and oral disease. (Adobe Stock)
February 15, 2021

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children, and as families postpone preventive dental care due to the pandemic, experts say it's important to maintain good oral-health habits at home.

Dr. Kerry Dove, who runs a pediatric dental practice in Concord, said lack of a normal schedule means kids at home may be snacking throughout the day, which can lead to cavities.

She recommended brushing kids' teeth in the morning and at night, drinking lots of water, and staying away from chewy and sugary foods like fruit snacks.

"Baby tooth decay can get really severe, really fast," Dove explained. "But, you know, if you've got a diet full of simple sugars and juice and carbohydrates, then small things can get really big, quickly."

Dove noted one in five kids ages six to 11 have at least one untreated cavity.

The American Dental Association recommends continuing routine checkups and cleanings in the pandemic, but the World Health Organization cautioned non-emergency dental services should be avoided wherever community transmission of COVID-19 is high or uncontrolled.

Use websites like covidactnow.org to check your local infection rates.

Dove added dentists are obsessive about infection control, and are taking extra precautions to keep patients safe.

"Make sure you talk to your provider about your comfort level or you know, if they can move you to a private room," Dove suggested. "Dentists are doing a lot of things to make people feel as safe as possible; taking temperatures, making sure everyone's wearing masks."

One study published last fall found fewer than 1% of dentists nationwide had tested COVID-positive, and 99% had enhanced their infection-control procedures.

Dr. Richard Gesker, Chief Dental Officer at United Healthcare, added most tooth and gum problems are preventable, and emphasized it's important to stay in touch with your child's dentist.

"Some individual dentists and some dental plans are making telephone and video consultations available," Gesker observed. "But this is only an option as a starting point for care and advice, to help the patient select the best setting for them, for in-person care."

The American Dental Association said spending on dental care dropped by 38% last year, and is expected to further dip 20% this year.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC