Baby Teeth Are Important
Despite an overall decline in dental decay rates over the last thirty years, recent data highlight the need for more rigorous early oral assessments and prevention efforts, beginning with maternal education. A national survey revealed a 15 percent increase in dental decay among young children (ages 2 to 5). More than one in four pre-school age children have experienced the disease.
“Preventing Dental Disease in Children Saves Costs Later in Life”, – says Mary E. Foley, RDH, MPH, Project Director at Improving Perinatal and Infant Oral Health, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
Despite an overall decline in dental decay rates over the last thirty years, recent data highlight the need for more rigorous early oral assessments and prevention efforts, beginning with maternal education. A national survey revealed a 15 percent increase in dental decay among young children (ages 2 to 5). More than one in four pre-school age children have experienced the disease. Cavities in primary (baby) teeth are a strong marker for permanent (adult) tooth decay making it important to note that as this cohort of children age, treatment needs will skyrocket.
Dental disease (dental caries) is preventable.
- Dental caries is infectious. The bacteria that cause cavities are transferred through the saliva from mother/caretaker to child by the sharing of spoons and cups, testing food temperature or simply forgetting to wash hands before putting them in baby’s mouth.
- Understand who’s at risk and know how to limit risk factors. Knowing and limiting the risk factors associated with dental caries can prevent and help to mange the disease in young children. The more risk factors present, the more likely an infant or toddler will develop cavities.
- Dental disease is manageable. Once the disease producing bacteria are transferred from mother to child, cavities can still be prevented. New evidence shows that teeth exposed to fluoride toothpaste twice daily have a fluoride rich outer layer that makes them most resistant to tooth decay.
- Establish a dental home by age one. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics all agree that early risk assessment for dental disease is important.
- Maintain oral health during pregnancy. Women of childbearing age should visit their dentist during pregnancy to assure optimum oral health. According to the an Obstetrics and Periodontal Therapy study in the New England Journal of Medicine, treatment of periodontal (gum) disease in pregnant women was safe and resulted in improved oral health outcomes.
Cost-Effectiveness of Preventive Services
- Low income children who have their first dental visit by age one are not only less likely to have subsequent restorative or emergency room visits, but their average dental-related costs are almost 40% lower ($263 compared to $447) over a five year period than children who receive their first preventive visit after age one.
- The Centers for Disease Control and prevention reports that for every $1 invested in fluoridation, $38 in dental treatment costs is saved.
The breast milk or formula that comforts and nourishes your baby can also cause severe tooth decay. Most parents I talk to don’t know how to care for their babies’ teeth.
Unlike adult cavities, which are usually hidden from view, baby tooth decay strikes the most visible portion of the front teeth. But parents are lulled into complacency because during the months the teeth are gradually weakening, the damage is invisible. Once the protective tooth enamel has been breached the ugly process of decay accelerates. Thankfully, this problem can be easily prevented.
What nourishes your baby also nourishes the normal bacteria that live in your baby’s mouth. These bacteria turn the sugars found in formulas, milks, and juices into acids strong enough to etch the enamel of the teeth if there is prolonged contact.
Tooth decay can be prevented by a combination of strengthening the enamel and reducing prolonged exposure to the acids. Fluoride is the most effective way to strengthen teeth. The optimum amount of fluoride in water is 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million. Check with your pediatrician by the time your baby is 6 months old about fluoride levels in the tap water in your area and about whether or not a fluoride supplement is appropriate for your child.
The clear saliva you see from time to time drooling from your baby’s mouth helps to prevent lengthy exposure to tooth-damaging acids. Enzymes in the saliva digest the sugars in milks and juices into safe forms that your baby can use. Also, the swishing of the saliva in the mouth actively washes the teeth…
I also applaud the American Academy of Pediatrics for recommending that children see a dentist trained in providing care to infants and children 6 months after their first tooth comes in or by 12 months of age.
Cleaning your baby’s teeth is a practical expression of your love. Children with healthy teeth can chew food easily, learn to speak clearly, and smile with confidence at you and at the world.
Categories: Oral Hygiene, Teeth, Women
Topics: Tags: baby, bacteria, caries, cavities, children, dental caries, dental treatment, fluoride, food, oral health