TODAY | March 07, 2012
>> now the alarming rise in the number of preschoolers with a mouthful of cavities. nbc chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman is here to talk about it.
>> this took people by surprise. it happened to kids at all income levels and the decay can be so severe they are requiring general anesthesia just for general treatment procedures. just 5 years old, owen wilford is used to the dentist. he's had two cavities in two weeks. something his mother is trying to avoid with 2-year-old hudson.
>> hudson doesn't have cavities yet. so we're working on it.
>> reporter: tooth decay in 2 to 5-year-olds is on the rise. according to a recent new york times article, dentists are regularly seeing preschoolers with as many as 6 to 10 cavities. and dentists say the reason for the increase isn't hard to find.
>> every time a child has a snack with a sugary item, their mouth becomes acidic. it's the number and frequency of exposures in that environment that can cause tooth decay .
>> okay, everybody. time to brush your teeth.
>> reporter: is brushing twice a day has long been the prescription for healthy teeth, but it's a habit too many kids aren't developing.
>> my son turned 4. he hates brushing his teeth. it's a fight, a battle.
>> reporter: dentists say it's a battle worth winning.
>> which one's hurting you?
>> reporter: some toddlers require extensive work including root kanls so general anesthesia is necessary. these procedures can cost parents from $2,000 to $5,000 depending on insurance coverage.
>> it's in their best interest to get the treatment done at one visit. that requires either sedation or general anesthesia .
>> reporter: though the cost of tooth decay can be steep.
>> my wife says we need to get him to the dentist.
>> reporter: taking steps to prevent it can be as simple as a play ground game.
>> we try to give him natural foods and give him a good toothbrushing every night before bed. hopefully that will keep him healthy. do the best we can, of course.
>> reporter: besides brushing, if you want to limit your child's problems, limit the number of cavities, well, guess what. sit down, cut down on the snacks, all the sweet stuff . raisins which parents pack have a lot of sugar in them. and tap water is a great natural source of fluoride. we have turned to bottled water . good old-fashioned tap water is great.
>> nancy, thank you very much.