Pediatric dentists see increase in tooth problems after pandemic dip in visits

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:
Child at the dentist.

More than 40-percent of American children have tooth decay before they reach kindergarten, and the COVID-19 pandemic only made it worse.

Breanna Ferrell is a mother of two with a six- and one-year-old.

They each have a mouthful of teeth.

Referring to her youngest, “She’s got her two that stick out on the bottom but they’re all on top,” Ferrell said.

Over the past two years, dentists saw office visits plummet – especially pediatric visits.

The result: tooth decay is up nationally 22-percent over pre-pandemic levels. The COVID risk was something Ferrell and her husband carefully considered.

Ferrell had her concerns. “Do we actually take them right now or do we wait. Until there’s a problem because we didn’t want to expose anything.”

Pediatric Dentist Jenny Cavanaugh is noticing an increase in decay, cavities even cracked teeth in her young patient population.

“As kids were home more snacking more, there was a disruption in routines and also dental offices were closed for the first few months of the pandemic,” Cavanaugh explained. “And many families out of fear avoided the dentist for the first few months even after the pandemic. So with a snacking disruption of routines, and delayed dental care, not only are we seeing more decay, but we’re seeing larger and more severe decay.”

The more serious the problems, the more aggressive the treatments. Fillings and even dental crowns are on the rise.

Now, more kids are making their way back to the dentist and that makes Dr. Cavanaugh smile. “It’s time to get back and get back on track with regular cleanings, checkups, fluoride treatments and so forth, get any decay treated and then then make home changes and get back into our routines of brushing and flossing.”

Ferrell said her 6-year-old is “just learning to make sure she’s taking care of her teeth and to have pride in her teeth.”

If caught early, most dental issues can be resolved. Without prolongued, painful interventions.

Dr Cavanaugh recommends a routine check up for children every six months, starting no later than one year of age.

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