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Majority of Arizona kindergartners experiencing dental issues

PHOENIX — Large numbers of Arizona children are already suffering from tooth decay.

According to data from the Arizona Department of Health Services, more than half of kindergartners have experienced some kind of tooth decay, and nearly one-third of those kids have never been to a dentist.

“Those are definitely accurate numbers,” said Kevin Earle, executive director of the Arizona Dental Association.

Earle said part of the reason kids are experiencing decay at such a young age is often due to parents believing baby teeth can be ignored.

“We have to focus on good nutritional habits to start to solve the problem,” he said.

One of the most common causes of tooth decay is sugary drinks, especially at nighttime, Earle said.

“Kids should not be put to bed with bottles that contain juice or milk because the sugars in those products will react with the bacteria in the mouth, and that in combination causes acids, and those acids cause decay,” Earle said.

Tooth decay can lead to health problems and result in orthodontic issues in the future, he said.

It can even have an impact on how kids perform in school.

“Dental pain is the leading reason for school absences,” Earle said. “Potentially, they’re in pain and they can’t concentrate in school. And not being in class, of course, affects their academic performance.”

Earle said parents should be brushing their kids’ teeth for two minutes twice a day and regularly scheduling dental appointments for their children.