Stories about: man wai ng

Is there a connection between dental X-rays and brain tumors?

Image: Flickr/radiant guy

The Boston Globe featured a study last week associating frequent dental X-rays with benign brain tumors called meningiomas. Despite the findings, says Man Wai Ng, DDS, MPH, Boston Children’s chief of Dentistry, you should still focus more on your child’s teeth than his or her brain when they’re in the dentist’s chair.

That’s because it’s unlikely that most children will have dental X-rays frequently enough to raise their tumor risk. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the American Dental Association and the Food and Drug Administration all offer recommendations and guidelines for dental X-rays in children, with a big focus on minimizing X-ray exposure.

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Why are cavities on the rise for younger children?

Thanks to better brushing habits, increased access to fluoride and regular trips to the dentist, Americans are getting fewer cavities than ever before. But as reported in a recent story in The New York Times, there is one segment of the population that isn’t doing so well when it comes to their teeth: preschoolers.

Cavity rates are on the rise for kids between the ages of 2 and 5, with just over 28 percent of them experiencing tooth decay. That means that nearly one in three toddlers has at least one cavity, which can cause mouth pain, gum disease and other health problems.

And like many medical conditions, if action isn’t taken early, tooth decay in toddlers can lead to life-long problems.

“Cavities at a young age is the single biggest risk factor for a lifetime of cavities,” says Man Wai Ng, DDS, MPH, dentist-in-chief at the Department of Dentistry at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Over the years, that can force the child to deal with pain, expensive dental work and more serious medical concerns like diabetes and heart problems.”  

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Children's dental health month

Dental DBD image 2February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Did you know that your children should have visited a dentist by the time they’ve reached the age of 12 months? You can find other helpful information like this at Children’s Dental Health Center.

Massachusetts passed a new children’s dental health law that went into effect January 1 of this year. The state Department of Early Education & Care now requires all children in day care longer than four hours and/or who eat a meal, to have their teeth brushed on-site.

Some parents think that day care providers already have enough on their plate without adding this to the mix, while others have voiced concerns about the possibility of spreading germs.

But Children’s Dentist-in-Chief, Manwai Ng, DDS, MPH, thinks this new law is a great idea.

In this Boston Globe letter to the editor, Dr. Ng makes her case:

We see young children every day with pain and infection from untreated early childhood tooth decay. Children as young as 2 commonly present with eight or more cavities. Each year, we take more than 500 patients to the operating room to provide dental care under general anesthesia.

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