Question: Does it really matter if baby teeth have cavities?
Answer: "Cavities are the result of a bacterial infection. The infection leads to demineralization of teeth. The demineralization can result in cavities because the enamel is unsupported and collapses. The infection spreads and can cause severe pain and suffering in children. Healthy baby teeth support infant and toddler eating, speech development and establish a healthy environment for permanent teeth that erupt later in life. Healthy baby teeth are also the best space maintainers for permanent teeth."
Question: When do parents need to pay attention to dental health?
Answer: "Children as young as nine or 10 months of age can be infected with cavity producing bacteria. If left untreated, these tooth infections can lead to pain and expensive dental treatment."
About 31 percent of low-income children ages 2 to 5 have dental cavities that don't get treated, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. A much smaller portion of high-income children -- about 6 percent -- have untreated cavities.
The data come from surveys conducted between 1999 and 2004. If untreated, the infection (dental caries) that causes tooth decay and cavities can also lead to pain, tooth loss and more serious infections. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a dental check-up at least twice a year for most children. Some children need more frequent dental visits because of increased risk of tooth decay, unusual growth patterns or poor oral hygiene.
-Among children from poor families, untreated cavities were more common in those age 6 to 11 (37 percent) than children 12 to 17 (27 percent).
-Likewise, among children from wealthy families, untreated cavities were more common among ages 6 to 11 (12 percent) than children 12 to 17 (7 percent).
-Only 36 percent of poor children visited a dentist in the past year compared to 70 percent of wealthy children, according to a 2004 survey.