NEW YORK, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The New York Health Department announced a campaign to promote oral health for young children because tooth decay is mostly preventable, officials say.
Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City's health commissioner, said tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease yet it is largely preventable. In New York City, more than a third of third-grade children have untreated tooth decay and 55 percent of third-graders have had a cavity.
Untreated tooth decay can cause pain, infection, difficulty eating and speaking and reduced self-esteem due to appearance.
This new campaign educates the public of the risk factors for tooth decay and gives parents and caregivers of young children tips to help prevent tooth decay, Farley said.
"Good oral health habits start at a young age," Farley said in a statement. "We often don't realize that some of the most common everyday behaviors, such as putting a baby to sleep with a bottle or using our mouth to wash off a pacifier can be contributing to a child's tooth decay."
Nationally, more than 51 million hours of school were missed annually by children due to an oral problem or a visit to the dentist beyond regularly recommended checkups, Farley said.