A version of this story aired June 8th on the PBS NewsHour and was also published September 5th by the Center for Investigative Reporting.
In El Salvador, American snack food companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and McDonald's are displacing the traditional diet. In the cities, this leads to obesity, but in the countryside the result is an epidemic of tooth decay in children. Children as young as three have mouths full of rotten teeth, which leads to other serious health problems such as tooth loss, jaw infections and malnutrition.
The pictures of painful, decaying teeth speak to a larger question in the developing world--what happens when a country without dental care adopts a first-world diet?
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