Both in the UK and the US, there is a lot of anxiety about the epidemic of tooth decay in kids.
Organized dentistry and policymakers have responded on 2 fronts: create an enhanced level of hygiene (called dental therapists in the US) to improve access to lower cost care, and impose taxes on cola which is the dark force in kids’ poor oral health.
Are these the real solutions to the caries epidemic in kids, and indeed, in oldsters too?
On first thought, its seems they can’t hurt. Kids and oldsters with cavities need cheaper and more available dental services for sure. And more expensive colas just might limit sugar consumption for a time.
But managing an epidemic is complicated. One issue which goes unspoken is the kind of dental services provided to the high risk community. Dental therapists deliver simple surgical restorations of decay, and put on fluoride too. But these don’t begin to address the bacterial imbalance in the plaque which causes decay.
Likewise, the epidemic of root decay in the aging Boomers (arguably, a far more serious problem than children’s caries) is unrelated to drinking Coke.
So cheaper hands and more expensive Coke are only part of the solution to managing the most common and expensive chronic disease in our community — poor oral health. Let’s get at the bacterial cause of caries and periodontal disease too.