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Dental dangers: what you may be passing to your kids

Rochester, N.Y. Already at the age of five, Imari James has had four cavities.

"It kind of makes me feel like I'm not doing my job, like I'm not doing what I have to do to take care of her dental hygiene," Imari's mom Shavon Alvarado said.

Alvardo says shes never had a problem with her teeth and she makes sure her children brush daily.

But even so, Ellie Phillips, D.D.S. says some parents can do everything right and may unknowingly pass bacteria to their children that can cause cavities and tooth decay.

"Studies from the 1970's were done where they determined it was from the mother's mouths and now with DNA testing they can actually show that when mothers kiss and cuddle or lick the pacifier that their bacteria is being transferred to the child's first tooth," Dr. Ellie Phillips said.

Once inside the mouth, it spreads quickly.

"I would say it's almost a pandemic because it's now out of control," Said Dr. Phillips.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 42 percent of children, age two to eleven, have cavities in their baby teeth. 21 percent of children, age six to eleven, have cavities in their adult teeth.

And left unattended, pediatric dentist with the Eastman Oral Institute, Dr. Erin Shope, says it can lead to severe consequences.

"Worst case I've seen has been a young child, say three or four years of age, out of the 20 teeth that they had, all of them had cavities to the point where we couldn't save the teeth, we had to take all his teeth out," Dr. Shope said.

The impact can also be deadly.

"They can spread to the brain sometimes to the area around the heart and those can be life threatening," said Dr. Shope.

A problem George Eastman saw decades ago. Its the reason why he created the Eastman Institute for Oral Health, helping families who didnt have the financial means.

But its not just an urban issue; its a problem in the suburbs too.

"We have a fair amount of kids in the office here with decay," Dr. Melissa Baleno with the Elmwood Dental Group in Brighton said.

Baleno says theres a common assumption about baby teeth.

"Sometimes there's a misconception that in children that, 'Oh it's just baby teeth, they'll get another set.' Well the baby teeth serve as space maintainers so once you start losing them too early, it can create a whole lot of problems in the mouth," said Dr. Baleno.

Problems Dr. Phillips says can be prevented, but not by flossing, fluoride or sealants, but with one product Xylitol.

Xylitol is a natural sugar substitute and can be found in some mints and chewing gum.

Dr. Phillips says you can even mix the Xylitol granules with water and spread on the teeth.

"Even if the baby teeth are damaged you can work on this program and change the damage before the new adult teeth come through in kindergarten," said Dr. Phillips.

Dr. Baleno stands by Xylitol. She says it's great helping to fight cavities.

"If a child is old enough to have chewing gum, the mints, three or four times a day, that's recommended, it's helpful," Dr. Baleno.

While Xylitol is recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and some research shows that it can help fight cavities, some dentists say more research is needed and its not a substitute for practicing good hygiene.

Thats something Alvarado says she is making sure Imari is going to make sure her teeth are healthy for years to come.

"Make sure she's brushing twice a day. I have lowered down the snacks, the candy, only after dinner that's it," said Alvarado.

American Pediatric Dentists now recommend that children see a dentists by age one, instead of three years old.

Its also recommended that children start using toothpaste with fluoride by the time their first tooth comes in.

For more dental hygiene information for you children, click here.

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Washington Times