Tooth decay or cavities is the top chronic health concern for children all over the world, which, when left untreated, can compromise a child’s eating and sleeping habits, as well as affect their self-confidence. A child suffering from severe cavities may experience difficulty in concentrating on school work, speaking, and even sleeping. Gerlie, a mother of two, shares, “I wasn’t aware that my child was suffering from cavities until one day he cried because of his very painful toothache. He couldn’t move and wasn’t able to do much else until the pain went away. He didn’t even have the appetite to eat or the energy to go to school.” These result in increasingly escalating detrimental effects on health, school and work performance, and even self-esteem. Aside from compromising a child’s eating habits, severe decay in baby teeth can have serious consequences for a child’s speech and jaw development.
A primary factor in the prevalence of cavities among Filipinos is a general lack of knowledge on dental health. Since oral health problems such as cavities are often overlooked, cavities are left untreated until they become emergency medical situations. In addition, unlike other more common health problems, the definition, symptoms, causes, and effects of cavities are not as commonly understood.
Cavities are commonly viewed by Filipinos as holes in teeth caused by consuming too much sweets. However, according to Dr. Corazon S. Flores, President of the Philippine Dental Association, “Visible holes on the surface of the teeth indicate that the problem has progressed beyond the tooth surface. In fact, dental caries or tooth decay begins with invisible acid erosion of the tooth enamel, caused by accumulated food substances left on the teeth. Left unchecked, the tooth area becomes increasingly damaged, progressing from the surface, all the way into the root.”
Cavities have become a fact of life among Filipinos when it really should not be as it is easily preventable, especially with the number of oral care products that are readily available. DepEd has continuously put their efforts to raise awareness on proper oral care in public school children by including it in the curriculum. This way, at an early age they are already made aware of how to easy it is to take care of their teeth.
It is also important to note that proper oral health care starts at home, continues Dr. Flores, “Being proactive at home is the first step. Filipinos can prevent this by brushing and flossing at least twice a day and regularly visiting the dentist at least twice a year. Parents need to set a good example by instilling good oral care habits in their family, especially their children, so that cavities can finally become a thing of the past.”