Tooth decay rampant among preschoolers in Canada

An 11-month-old baby had the worst case of tooth decay Dr. Nabil Ouatik has ever seen.

“It was so severe that we had to take the child to hospital to repair these cavities,” said Ouatik, a pediatric dentist.

The baby had active decay on the upper and lower front teeth.

“If we were to wait, it was likely that these would be starting to cause pain because of the severity,” Ouatik said.

Such instances occur more often than he likes to admit.

Ouatik examined a 15-month-old with similar problems last Friday.

Tooth decay is so rampant among preschoolers, research finds 19,000 kids need dental surgery each year, according to a report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

This means children must visit a hospital for day surgery and be put under general anesthesia.

The cost of these operations is $21.2 million each year across Canada, excluding Quebec, and only represents a fraction of the true cost, the report reads.

At the CHEO, 600 patients are currently on the waiting list for dental and oral surgery.

“Over the past year, we did 980 dental surgeries,” said CHEO spokeswoman Eva Schacherl.

That number has increased since 2008-2009, when 679 procedures at CHEO topped the list in Canada.

The majority of these children come from low-income families, often waiting for referrals from public health and community dentists.

Middle and upper class parents produce kids with mouths full of cavities too, said Ouatik.

He recently opened a practice, ToothPark, in Orléans with Dr. Dinah Hovsepian.

“Food is the number one issue,” followed by hygiene, said Hovsepian.

In addition to junk food, decay can stem from parents putting babies to bed with bottles of milk or juice, to ‘healthy’ snacks such as granola bars or dried fruit.

“I’ve followed families at Walmart to see what they’re putting in their cart,” said Ouatik.

Prevention is their goal, and both dentists are stressing proper brushing and healthy eating.

Eating raw apples or oranges “almost brushes your teeth for you,” said Ouatik.

In addition, they’re working with family doctors to encourage parents — of all income brackets — to bring in children by age one for their first visit.

“For some kids it was way too late at the age of three,” said Ouatik, noting decay starts once the tooth has formed around six months old.

Twitter: @ottawasunkroche

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