Kids and Cavities a Rotten Combo

Tooth decay is the most common disease of childhood. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Getting kids to care about oral health can be like pulling teeth. But cavities aren't just painful - they can interfere with learning, speech, eating and play.

Roughly one in six American kids has untreated cavities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And experts say those tiny holes can have major consequences on growth and development.

"Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood, and in the worst case it can change a kid's life for the short or long term," said Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist based in Augusta, Maine, and spokesman for the American Dental Association. "Taking steps to prevent it early on - as soon as the first tooth erupts - is key to having a lifetime of good oral health."

Children's dental health tweet chat today at 1 p.m., ET

Tooth decay accounts for 51 million missed school hours and 25 million missed work hours among parents annually, according to the American Dental Association. But some simple steps can cut the risk of cavities and set up good dental habits for life.

The ADA offers the following tips:

  • Eat a nutritious diet during pregnancy
  • Take your child to a dentist before his or her first birthday
  • Brush your child's teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss your child's teeth daily as soon as two teeth touch
  • Avoid giving your child sugary and starchy snacks

Join the Conversation

To raise public awareness about the importance of children's dental care, ABC News' chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser will host a one-hour tweet chat on Twitter today from 1-2 p.m. ET. Experts from the American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, the Mayo Clinic and many other professional groups will be joining Besser on the chat to answer your questions and offer advice.

Want to participate? It's as easy as 1-2-3:

Step 1: Go to Twitter Step 2: Search for the hashtag #abcDRBchat Step 3: Follow the conversation - or chime in when you've got something to add!

Following the tweet chat is even easier if you go to, sign into twitter and enter the #abcDRBchat hashtag. A box will pop up that only includes tweets from the chat. And when you have something to say, the hashtag will automatically be added to your tweet.

Join the chat. Share your story!

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