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Philadelphia pediatrician highlights childhood caries as 'silent epidemic'

City said to be first large municipality imposing tax on sugary drinks

June 29, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

Philadelphia — A Philadelphia pediatrician said he wants dental professionals to know that many pediatricians are becoming more aware of the need to ensure that all children have a dental home — and that families are educated about caring for their child's primary teeth.

Dr. Taylor
Daniel Taylor, D.O., director of community pediatrics and child advocacy for St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia and an associate professor at Drexel University College of Medicine, penned a column published June 17 in The Philadelphia Inquirer called "This Silent Epidemic Has Been Increasing In Kids 2 to 11, But Is Preventable." The epidemic he's referring to is early childhood caries.

Dr. Taylor told ADA News he hopes his article is meaningful to both the general public and to dental professionals.

In the column, Dr. Taylor wrote, "We see all kinds of symptoms. An 8-year-old boy with a badly swollen jaw due to an infection. A 2-year-old boy who weighs what a 1-year-old should because he can't eat solid foods. A 6-year-old girl who can't fall asleep at night or pay attention in school. A 4-year-old who gets teased at preschool because he 'talks funny.' One look inside their mouths, and the telltale erosions and cavernous divots on their 'baby teeth' bring to light the probable cause of all these problems that cause so much pain and disability, and yet are so preventable."

Dr. Taylor goes on in the article to note high risk factors that can help primary care providers identify children at high risk for caries; the health problems that can come later in life because of early childhood cavities; and ways pediatricians can help mitigate the oral health problem, which include helping young patients and their families find a dental home and applying fluoride varnish.

Coincidentally, Dr. Taylor's article was published the same week that the Philadelphia City Council voted 13-4 to approve a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar sweetened and diet beverages, including soda, juices, sports drinks and flavored water. Money raised from the taxes will be invested in local schools, including citywide pre-kindergarten, parks and other public spaces.

When asked about the legislation, Dr. Taylor told ADA News he applauds the measure, calling it a "huge step in the administration's efforts to fund evidenced-based interventions that especially benefit low-income children. This tax will also hopefully decrease consumption of unhealthy, cariogenic, beverages that continue to plague the most impoverished in our community."

The ADA acknowledges it is beneficial for consumers to avoid a steady diet of foods containing natural and added sugars, processed starches and low pH-level acids as a way to help maintain optimal oral heath.

To read other articles by Dr. Taylor about pediatric care, visit his blog, dtaylor4kids.wordpress.com.

For more information from the ADA about interprofessional relations, contact Anne Clancy, manager of inteprofessional relations for the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interproressional Relations by email at clancya@ada.org.