Costly treatment, lost school days: UAE dentists warn of high rate of cavities among kids

More than 40 per cent between the ages of two and 19 report tooth-related problems


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Wed 3 Apr 2024, 9:34 AM

Last updated: Tue 9 Apr 2024, 4:47 PM

Dental caries or cavities were at least 40 per cent more prevalent in children between the ages of 2 and 19 in 2023 in the UAE. That, according to dentists who explained tooth decay, is a common concern especially among school-aged children.

Treatment can vary depending on the child’s symptoms, age, oral hygiene, and the severity of the condition.

Dr Eman W. H. Salah, Specialist Implantologist CosmeSurge, Dubai said, “The prevalence of dental caries was greater than 40 per cent in 2023 among children 2 to 19 years of age. Childhood decay leads to a higher risk of caries onset in permanent teeth, emergency room visits, high treatment costs, lost school days, and a profound negative impact on a child’s quality of life.”

Dr Eman W. H. Salah
Dr Eman W. H. Salah

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Early tooth decay may be managed with conservative methods such as plaque removal, dental decay cleansing, remineralisation of the teeth, use of supplemental fluoride, and dental sealants.

However, healthcare professionals highlighted treating severe tooth decay often requires removing the decayed part of the tooth and replacing it with a filling. Despite these treatments, there is a risk of recurrence if proper oral hygiene practices and regular dental check-ups are not maintained.


Persistent bad breath (halitosis) can sometimes be a sign of tooth decay or gum disease along with swollen or bleeding gums. It's worth noting that in advanced cases, tooth decay can lead to gum inflammation or infection as well.

“Parents can identify tooth decay by noticing white spots beginning to form on the affected teeth. These spots mean that the enamel is starting to break down. Left untreated, it develops into an early cavity that becomes deeper, and darkens into a brown to black shade,” added Salah.

Dr Mai Mahmoud Abdelsalam
Dr Mai Mahmoud Abdelsalam

Dr Mai Mahmoud Abdelsalam, Specialist Orthodontist, Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said, “The prevalence of dental caries among five-year-old children stood at 83 per cent, with an average score of 5.1, according to a study conducted in November 2020. Cavities are regions of deterioration on the hard surface of your teeth. These decayed areas manifest as small or large holes, posing risks of significant tooth pain, infections, and eventual tooth loss.”

Brush, floss daily

Medics stressed dental examinations play a crucial role in identifying initial indicators of tooth decay. They said children should undergo their first dental check-up around age two.

Dr Ola Yassir
Dr Ola Yassir

Dr Ola Yassir, General Dentist, Canadian Specialist Hospital Dubai, said, “It's essential to maintain regular check-ups for older children as well. Consult your dentist or oral health professional to determine the recommended frequency for your child's dental visits. Regular dental check-ups and maintaining good oral hygiene can help prevent tooth decay. If you suspect your child has tooth decay, it’s important to consult a dentist for an examination and appropriate treatment.”

She added, “Start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. Brush the teeth, tongue, and gums for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, or watch as your child brushes their teeth. For children younger than three years old, use only a small amount of toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice. At this age, the child can use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Floss your child’s teeth daily after age two.”

Limit sticky and sugary snacks

Doctors recommend that children eat a well-balanced diet and limit snacks that are sticky and high in sugar. These include chips, candy, cookies, cake, and soda drinks.

“Prevent the transfer of bacteria from your mouth to your child's. Don't share eating utensils and don’t clean your baby’s pacifier with your saliva. If your child uses a bottle at bedtime, only put water in it. Juice and formula contain sugars that can lead to tooth decay. Schedule routine dental cleanings and exams for your child every six months,” added Yassir.


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