Last week, the New York Times had an article about the increasing number of small children who have significant tooth decay . Significant enough to have to undergo I.V. sedation in order to treat their dental needs. I have always been aware of an increase of cavities in preschool children among the lower income families (mainly due to lack of proper dental care or access to dental care). This article was truly alarming because it pointed out that this problem no longer primarily affects lower income families but affects preschoolers of all income levels.
The article describes specific cases where an upper middle class mom didn't think about brushing her young child's teeth until she noticed that they were discolored. As it turned out, this child had 11 cavities. She claimed she had such a busy life that it didn't occur to her that it was important to take the time to brush them properly.
Many parents also claim that they simply were not informed about when to start taking their child to the dentist or even when they should start using fluoride toothpaste. Another reason parents aren't brushing their child's teeth properly is because they are stating that toddlers simply do not like to have their teeth brushed. So in order to avoid the screaming and crying that occurs during these brushing sessions, they will choose not to brush their teeth. Another increase in toddler cavities comes from drinking high sugar juice or other sugary drinks before bedtime or even throughout the day. This sugar sits on children's teeth and the acid it produces creates the decay.
In no way am I saying that these parents are cruelly negligent or "bad", they are just no properly informed as to the importance of maintaining toddler's teeth. Even though baby teeth are eventually replaced, they serve such an important purpose and need to be kept healthy and around for as long as they are needed.
What we need is better information that is more readily available to everyone with young children.