Dentist visits down, kids’ cavities up in Illinois

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A new report shows that the number of children with tooth decay in Illinois is on the rise so far this year.

The report found that the number of children with cavities across the state is now 12.7 %, about 6-percent higher than it was in 2016.

There percentage of children with cavities across the country, according to Quote Wizard, is currently 11.7%.

That study also shows that nationwide, 77% of children and adolescents saw a dentist so far this year. In recent years, approximately 80% of children made an annual trip to their dentist’s office.

Roscoe dentist Dr. Terry Joiner said he’s not seen that decrease in child patients. He’s been extremely busy. But he has treated more children for cavities in 2022. 

“I am definitely seeing that trend,” Joiner said of the kids he sees at his practice.  

Joiner said though some experts say children are just now getting back to the dentists because of COVID, the uptick in cavities in his young patients can be attributed to other factors.

“During COVID, kids weren’t getting their regular exams, but we’ve made it through that here,” he said. “Tooth decay in kids has a lot to do with their environment—food they eat, what they drink, and the care they get at home.”

One of the things children are drinking a lot of these days are soft drinks, especially sugary ones that cause bacteria in the mouth to produce enamel-damaging acid that leads to cavities.

Even sugar-free or diet soft drinks can break down tooth enamel over time. 

“We see kids who drink a lot of soda pop,” Joiner said. 

With Halloween just days away, Joiner says children can follow some simple guidelines to keep their teeth clean and healthy and still enjoy their trick-or-treat candy. 

“Candy that is going to be the worst for our teeth is stuff that is going to be sticky, and that is because it stays in our mouth longer,” Joiner said. “Everything in moderation.”

The Quote Wizard study shows 12% of people younger than 17 reported having a cavity or tooth decay in 2022. Sixty-two percent of men and 68% of women visited the dentist in the last year.

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