Cavities in children are on the rise these days, and a new theory from dentists and children's health advocates claims bottled water may be partially to blame.

Lack of fluoride may increase tooth decay

Do your kids drink bottled water? Well, they may be at a heightened risk for tooth decay.


More kids drinking bottled water -- less fluoride

Lately, dentists are seeing more cavities in children at younger ages. And dentists aren't shy about pointing their finger at the cause: More kids, as many as 45 percent, are drinking bottled water exclusively instead of tap. A study published in the medical journal Pediatric Dentistry examined kids ages six months to 15 years and found that lack of tap water use combined with parental uncertainty about fluoride levels in different brands of bottled water are to blame for the rise in kids' cavities. Since the 1940s, the U.S. has been adding fluoride, a naturally occurring element, to most public sources of drinking water. The move has sent the rate of dental cavities into a downward spiral the last few decades. According to the American Dental Association, fluoride reduces cavities in both children and adults and helps repair the early stages of tooth decay even before the decay becomes visible.

More youngsters getting serious medical treatment

Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that surgery for young children needing to fix their extensive dental maladies is on the rise.

"Dentists nationwide said they are seeing more preschoolers at all income levels with six to 10 cavities or more."

"The number of preschoolers requiring extensive dental work suggests that many other parents make the same mistake. 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," the article reports.

It should be noted that this problem is not exclusive to a particular socioeconomic status. Dentists nationwide said they are seeing more preschoolers at all income levels with six to 10 cavities or more, according to the Times. And the level of decay is so severe that general anesthesia is often recommended.

Keeping kids' teeth healthy

Parents are still advised to brush young kids' teeth twice daily and avoid sweet foods or liquids before bedtime. Parents should start brushing their kids' baby teeth as soon as they're fully erupted. Experts advise that instilling good dental hygiene at a young age is imperative for kids to continue healthy practices into adulthood.

“You should brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, see the dentist twice a year for fluoride treatment and get fluoride in your drinking water,”  Jonathan D. Shenkin, spokesman on pediatric dentistry for the American Dental Association, told msnbc.com. “If you’re not getting it in your drinking water, that takes out a component of the effectiveness of that triad.”

Read more on dental health for kids

Teaching kids about good dental health
7 Kid-friendly dental care products
Dental health: 5 Ways to prevent childhood tooth decay

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