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Tooth Decay Infographic - Data Included in Blog TextAccording to the Office of Oral Health, a division of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children. Approximately 48 percent of third graders in the Commonwealth have experienced tooth decay, which can affect more than their smiles. It can have negative consequences for children’s development of adult teeth, nutrition, self-esteem, and overall well-being.

Parents and teachers can prevent more serious oral health problems for Massachusetts children by instilling the importance of good dental hygiene.

How Tooth Decay Forms

Children are at risk for tooth decay as soon as their first tooth emerges at around 6 months of age. When kids consume starch- or sugar-laden foods and drinks, bacteria in the mouth quickly devours these sugars, producing acids that weaken the tooth and cause a hole or a “cavity” to be formed.

Health - Tooth Decay

How Tooth Decay Can Be Prevented

Tooth decay can be prevented if parents make sure that children follow three important strategies:

  • Remove Dental Plaque from Teeth by Brushing Twice a Day — Brushing tiny ones’ teeth twice a day decreases the chance of tooth decay. Make sure to use toothpaste with fluoride, which strengthens the enamel on teeth, according to these age-appropriate recommendations:
    • 12 months or younger — Do not use toothpaste.
    • 1 to 2 years old — Use a smear of toothpaste.
    • 2 to 5 years old — Use a pea-sized amount.
  • Consume Less Foods and Drinks High in Sugar and Carbohydrates — Limiting sugar intake to mealtimes will help prevent the development of tooth decay.
  • Drink Water Containing Fluoride — Drinking fluoridated water also helps strengthen children’s tooth enamel, further protecting them from damage.

Oral Health Programs in the Commonwealth

To promote oral health among children, the Commonwealth provides residents with resources to raise awareness about tooth decay prevention.

  • Education for Health-Care Providers — BLOCK Oral Disease Educational Materials and Trainings are designed to educate providers on oral health topics, focusing on children with special health-care needs.
  • Coverage for Children’s Fluoride Varnish — Fluoride varnish is a type of topical fluoride that can be painted onto teeth to prevent cavities. MassHealth reimburses some health-care providers when this service benefits children who are at higher risk for tooth decay.
  • Fluoride Tap Water – DPH supports community water fluoridation in order to provide an adequate amount of fluoride for dental health. According to DPH, 70 percent of residents receive fluoridated water in their homes.

Although poor oral health in children is a serious issue, there are many preventative measures and resources available to help Commonwealth kids keep their smiles tooth-decay free.

How do you encourage your children to maintain good oral health? Tweet us @MassGov.

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