Over the past two years, dental specialists like our own Dr. Elizabeth Ralstrom have seen worrisome trends emerging in children’s oral health. In fact, Dr. Ralstrom was recently interviewed by MLive about the changes she’s seen in pediatric dental patients since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Like other dentists throughout Michigan, Dr. Ralstrom has seen a serious uptick in major oral health issues in both new and existing patients. Many children have either never been to the dentist or haven’t had a dental checkup since before the pandemic related shutdown in 2020.  

Even though it’s only been about two-and-a-half years, Dr. Ralstrom reminds parents, “that’s enough time for a small problem to become significant.” For example, as the article points out, treatments are often more affordable and conservative whenever issues are addressed early. What could be a small, conservative filling that only costs a little over $150 to repair could evolve into more complicated and expensive treatments like a pulpotomy, crown, sedation, and ongoing restorative updates as the child gets older.   

Additionally, orthodontic problems that fester can turn into big problems for facial growth and dental eruption.  There are times when early interceptive orthodontic treatment will allow us to keep teeth that otherwise would be extracted, prevent facial asymmetry and optimize skeletal maturation.  While this doesn’t always preclude the need for full braces when a child is in puberty, it can vastly reduce the complexity of treatment and need for surgery as an adjunct to orthodontics during the growth spurt. 

Prevention is always our first line of defense as oral health care providers.  Sadly, children in Michigan saw an increase in tooth decay by 39% between 2016 and 2021 after the pandemic.  This places Michigan in the top five states for highest rate of childhood cavities. That is a troubling finding and one that we can help improve through preventative visits like a dental cleaning, fluoride applications and the installation of sealants to protect the hiding places on the chewing surfaces of our teeth. 

How to Stop the Cycle 

Dental cavities are one of the most common childhood diseases. Fortunately, preventative care and early treatments allow children to reduce the need for more complex (and expensive) therapies in the future.  

If your family has not visited the dentist for their preventative care appointments since pre-pandemic, you’re not alone. Thankfully, Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan can help your children get their oral health back on the right track. Contact us today to reserve an appointment with one of our outstanding pediatric dental or orthodontic specialists.