Young kids and teens have gotten out of regular teeth brushing and flossing, and dentists say “COVID cavities” are a lingering effect of the pandemic.
Dr. Martha Ann Keels of Duke Street Pediatric Dentistry said providers are working to get children back on track. She explained the past few years of virtual schooling at home meant more frequent munching on sugary and chewy snacks, which has led to an uptick in molar cavities.
Keels’ top tip for parents in the new year is to stay away from chewy foods.
“Gravitate towards the things that melt like chocolate and M&Ms, and then ice cream or sorbets are a great choice,” Keels recommended. “Things that melt off your teeth are a much smarter choice than things that are sticky.”
One study published last summer found more parents said their kids’ dental health was worse compared to 2019. Increased risk of cavities and other teeth problems were more likely in Hispanic or non-White children, low-income households, and households without health coverage.
Proper oral care begins as soon as teeth crop up in babies. Keels advised starting to floss young children’s teeth to prevent cavities which are not visible, and keep plague buildup at bay.
“Parents can be fooled looking in their child’s mouth and go, ‘Oh, my kid’s teeth are, like, cavity free,’ and then we get those first X-rays at four, and we sadly say your child’s got a mouthful of cavities between their teeth,” Keels noted.
Keels added providers are also seeing more families neglect brushing routines and missed appointments as they struggle with depression, anxiety and other mental-health issues.
“So, if you’re a parent, and you’re anxious or depressed, it’s hard to also take care of your children and get back on the right track of taking care of yourself, as well as your children’s teeth,” Keels acknowledged. “I certainly understand that.”
Research shows people suffering from depression tend to have poor dental hygiene and are at higher risk of periodontal disease and mouth pain. The American Dental Association noted thumb-sucking and other stress-related habits can negatively affect kids’ teeth.
Disclosure: The North Carolina Dental Society contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, and Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Pandemic oral health study Univ. of Iowa 02/25/2022
Depression and oral health Cleveland Clinic 05/27/2022
Pandemic recovery American Dental Assn. Oct. 2020
Children’s oral health American Academy of Pediatrics Dec. 2022
This story was written by Brett Peveto, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.