Tooth decay rates are high in Tri-Cities, local dentist recommends lifestyle changes

Tooth decay rates are high in Tri-Cities, local dentist recommends lifestyle changes

RICHLAND, Wash. -- A local dentist said Southeastern Washington has some of the highest rates of early tooth decay in the country, and he wants that to change.

Dr. Lee Ostler said tooth decay is a problem that can damage more than just our mouths, and the solution is much bigger than simply brushing twice a day.

Fifteen-hundred pounds of candy--that's how many sweets Dr. Ostler bought from local children after Halloween this year.

“One of the secrets is that tooth decay is totally preventable,” he said.

The candy haul will go to troops overseas--a treat for them--and a way to get excess sugar away from children.

“Boy, here we have some good American candy that they're not able to find where they are,” said Romar Swarner of Operation Thank You.

“When you see tooth decay rates as high as we experience them here in Southeast Washington, there's something missing,” Ostler said.

Dr Ostler said that missing link could be unbalanced diet, too much sugar, or poor oral hygiene.

“That's not something you like to be known for,” he said. “But that is the reality here.”

And to change the trend? He said lifestyle is the answer.

“We can all exercise more, we can all eat better, we can all do a better job with a toothbrush and floss in our mouth,” Ostler said. “Those are the things that you can get your arms around and make changes about.”

Rotting teeth don't just mean cavities--Dr Ostler said poor dental health has been linked to systemic diseases like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.

“How we take care of our mouth is a part of lifestyle,” he said. “If we have time to watch TV, we have time to brush our teeth.”

So a sparkling smile doesn't just mean healthy teeth--it can be a sign of your health as a whole.

“Those are all things that we have the capability of changing,” he said. “We can't change our genetics and who our parents were, but we can change our lifestyle, and this is part of the conversation.”

As part of that healthy lifestyle, Dr Ostler is encouraging parents to watch over their children's sugar consumption.

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