‘Lax Parenting’ Is Giving Your Preschooler A Mouthful Of Cavities

cavities in toddlersMany parents would most likely describe their parenting technique with toddlers as perpetual negotiating. You’ll swap a juice cup with your little one if he or she gets in the car.You’ll give your son or daughter a box or raisins if they put their shoes on. You’ll give them gummy snacks if they brush their teeth. But according to a piece in The New York Times, this sort of “lax parenting,” coupled with no fluoride water, and sugary snacks is causing 2-years-olds to have serious dental work including 10 to 20 cavities and root canals. And these kids aren’t even in kindergarten yet.

The Times profiles a few families whose toddlers with cavities are ending up under anesthesia for considerable work. Many of the parents openly admit that with busy schedules, testy tots, and sheer exhaustion, brushing those baby teeth just isn’t happening. And many dentists are noticing the increase in cavity-stricken toddlers, with Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist, adding that his colleagues are “treating more kids more aggressively earlier.” There are reportedly no numbers yet giving us an idea of how many young children exactly have dental hygiene woes, but after interviewing 20 dentists, The Times thinks that they have a pretty good idea:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted an increase, the first in 40 years, in the number of preschoolers with cavities in a study five years ago. But dentists nationwide say they are seeing more preschoolers at all income levels with 6 to 10 cavities or more. The level of decay, they added, is so severe that they often recommend using general anesthesia because young children are unlikely to sit through such extensive procedures while they are awake.

But dentists maintain that these types of procedures are completely preventable, provided that families use fluoride-infused toothpaste, cut down on “the endless snacking and juice or other sweet drinks at bedtime,” and of course brush regularly. Parents also reportedly aren’t taking their kids to the dentist early enough (dental experts told the publication that the first visit should start at age one). Also, many mothers and fathers can also mistake dull cavity pain for teething, an understandable mistake. However, in a scenario that probably happens all too often, one dentist asserts that it simply comes down to parents not being strict enough about brushing:

And because some toddlers dislike tooth-brushing, some parents do not enforce it. ”Let’s say a child is 1 ½, and the child screams when they get their teeth cleaned,” said Dr. Jed Best, a pediatric dentist in Manhattan. ”Some parents say, ”˜I don’t want my little darling to be traumatized.’ The metaphor I give them is, ”˜I’d much rather have a kid cry with a soft toothbrush than when I have to drill a cavity.’

Modern parents may be slacking off on their kid’s dental hygiene, but it’s not as if they don’t have enough on their plates what with hectic scheduling and a fast-paced home life. Mothers and fathers are generally just trying to keep their kids clean, fed, and perhaps well-rested if they can swing it. And between all that other work-life balance rhetoric and the never-ending to-do list, it seems predictable that something at the end of the day would be forgotten. Few parents can truly tout perfection in their home. But with so many children heading to the dentist with rotting mouths, perhaps parents’ schedules are truly becoming too fast.

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