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Kids and Cavities a Rotten Combo

hamburguesaconqueso/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- 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.”

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.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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