Oral Health

Pediatric Dentists Are Seeing An Influx Of ‘COVID Cavities’ In Kids

As if parents needed another COVID-adjacent problem to worry about.

Child having their teeth checked by a dentist. Dentists have seen an uptick in cavities since quaran...
Stefania Pelfini, La Waziya Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Bad news, y’all: “covid cavities” are very much a thing — as if parents needed another lingering side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic to worry about. Experts believe that time spent at home during quarantine lead to more sugary snacks and more lax schedules and dental hygienic practices for kids and teens, leading to an influx of cavities.

A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association in February 2022 found that “Children in 2020 were 16%... less likely to have excellent dental health as perceived by parents and 75%... more likely to have poor dental health than in 2019.”

Kids in 2020 were also more susceptible to bleeding gingivae and other oral health issues than they were in 2009.

Limited access to oral health care during the pandemic also played a role in the uptick of cavities, which was more likely in in Hispanic or non-White children, low-income households, and households without health coverage. The odds of a child visiting the dentist in 2020 was 27% lower than in 2019.

So what can parents do to get their children’s dental health back on track? Dr. Martha Ann Keels of Duke Street Pediatric Dentistry gave a few tips to Public News Service, including staying away from sweets that stick to the teeth and going for something that melts off, if an urge for something sweet strikes.

"Gravitate towards the things that melt like chocolate and M&Ms, and then ice cream or sorbets are a great choice," Keels recommended. "Things that melt off your teeth are a much smarter choice than things that are sticky."

And for parents who perhaps fell off their own personal care habits throughout the pandemic or felt the stress of taking care of their own mental health during quarantine, re-instilling healthy brushing habits as a family could be a good option.

"So, if you're a parent, and you're anxious or depressed, it's hard to also take care of your children and get back on the right track of taking care of yourself, as well as your children's teeth," Keels acknowledged to PNS. "I certainly understand that."

Cavities left untreated can lead to their own set of health complications. According to the CDC, untreated cavities can “lead to abscess (a severe infection) under the gums which can spread to other parts of the body and have serious, and in rare cases fatal, results.” The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children to be seen for their first dental visit within six months of the first tooth eruption or by 1-year-old.

Folks should also toss their toothbrush and deeply clean other personal products after having COVID.