More than half of today’s youngsters are plagued with dental caries or tooth cavities. This is despite advances in dental and oral care technologies that have clearly made it a lot easier to care for the teeth. And while the general trend is declining over the past couple of decades, experts are still concerned over the effects of some factors in the continuing prevalence of tooth cavities among today’s youth. In this post we’ll take a closer look at this dental problem plaguing the youth and attempt to understand why such a phenomenon continues to exist.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research stated that more than 51 percent of children between the ages of 6 to 11 years have dental caries in their primary teeth while 50.67 percent of youngsters belonging to the 12-15 year age group had dental caries in their permanent teeth. Teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 years had a greater incidence rate for dental caries in their permanent teeth at a whopping 67.49 percent.
In contrast, there are more adults that have dental caries than youngsters accounting for 85.58 percent among 20 to 34 years old, 94.30 percent among 35 to 49 years old, and 95.62 percent among 50 to 64 years old.
These figures somehow reveal that as an individual grows older the incidence of dental caries of cavities also increases. Dental professionals believe that the incidence of dental caries in adults is nothing more than a carryover of the state of dental health in childhood, made even more complex by the addition of other factors that adults generally face.
The implications to dental professionals and the families of these youngsters are simply too great to dismiss as nothing more than mere coincidence. One only has to look at the unique behavior of today’s youngsters and modern families to understand the continuing issue of dental problems among the youth.
Some adolescent behaviors have been implicated in the formation of dental cavities. While cariogenic microorganisms remain one of the most important risk factors for the development of cavities, dietary practices provide the most common cause of dental caries.
Dental professionals always point to faulty dietary beliefs that put emphasis on starchy, sweet, and acidic foods. The first two types of food can increase the risk of cavities because of the role they play in the proliferation of germs in the oral cavity. On the other hand, acidic foods tend to erode the protective layer of the teeth, making it a lot easier for germs to gain access to the inner tooth layers.
Inappropriate dietary practices are not the only culprits for the development of cavities among the youth. When this is coupled with poor oral hygiene, the process of tooth decay can be further hastened. Many pupils and students cite heavy academic load as one of the reasons for their inadequacy to maintain good oral hygiene such as brushing the teeth after every meal and flossing at least once every day. However, many fail to recognize that drinking water after meals is a simple yet effective solution to wash away potential teeth contaminants.
Teenagers are also at a stage in their lives when they are most vulnerable to outside social influences. Many youngsters today drink alcoholic beverages, smoke, and use illicit drugs. These substances are known to have a detrimental effect on the teeth, increasing the risk of tooth decay.
Alcohol is largely acidic; hence, it can erode the teeth. Cannabis or marijuana can increase the risk of gum diseases while drying the mouth. Cocaine, when mixed with saliva, can also lead to tooth decay. Heroin, while not directly causing any loss of integrity to the teeth, can make individuals crave for really sweet foods. Perhaps the most sinister of all illicit drugs is methamphetamine which is known to cause severe cavities within a relatively short period of time.
It should be noted that as children grow into teenagers, they are exposed to a variety of environmental and social factors that can further aggravate the decay that is starting to form on their teeth. Parents can play an important role in making sure that youngsters’ oral and dental health is maintained regardless of their exposure to such factors.