John C. Chao, D.D.S.

Research Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Ostrow School of Dentistry, USC

(626) 308-9104

News & Press

Tooth Decay Can Stunt Growth

A new study suggests that tooth decay may push back growth in children. The study appeared in the online version of Pediatrics journal and was conducted at University College London and King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital in Saudi Arabia. The research team wanted to explore the relationship between oral health and growth after previous studies failed to show definitive evidence one way or the other. In this study, the researchers looked at the dental decay and the correlation between height and weight in Saudi Arabian children ages 6 through 8.

The oral health of the children was graded on the DMFT (Decayed, Missing and Filled Teeth) scale, which is a scale that determines the seriousness of decayed, missing and filled teeth.

The research team later analyzed the statistics and concluded that there was, in fact, a relationship between low height/weight and a greater number of cavities. Children with severe decay had a higher chance of being underweight and shorter when compared to their peers.

Even when confounding factors such as demographics and social values were taken into account, statistics showed there is a meaningful relationship between dental health and physical growth.

It may be that children may be eating the wrong things besides neglecting oral hygiene. It may be that with compromised teeth a child does not want to eat or eat the right kind of foods. It may be that infection, even if not acute and painful, can affect the health and growth of the child. Further studies hopefully will throw more light on this vital subject.

It certainly is a warning sign and reminder to parents to pay even more attention to their children’s dental health. We know poor dental health can impact one’s general health. Heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis are some examples of medical conditions associated with dental disease. Perhaps it’s not surprising the growth and development of a child is similarly compromised by dental neglect.

What is the take-home lesson for the New Year? Taking care of our children’s dental health will ensure normal growth and development. Make sure they form the right habits and brush their teeth regularly. Educate our children as to the importance of having healthy, clean, bright teeth. Teach them to watch their sugar intake, to stay away from sodas as much as possible. Try Xylitol, a sugar free, decay-inhibiting gum. Take them to the dentist every six months. Above all, take care of our own teeth and gums and set a good example for our children. See the dentist every 6 months, at least.

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