Dental caries is a transmissible disease that is preventable, yet the single most common chronic childhood disease—5 times more common than asthma, 4 times more common than early-childhood obesity, and 20 times more common than diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a steady rise in cavities in children ages 2 to 5. These staggering statistics have led the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) to develop new guidelines for improving children’s dental health.
When Should A First Visit Take Place?
Infants should have their first dental visit no later than their first birthday. This will allow caregivers to receive important information regarding oral hygiene, home and office-based fluoride therapies, dietary counseling, and information related to oral habits and dental injury prevention. Additionally, a caries risk assessment will be made allowing for early intervention that will be aimed at preventing dental disease.
How Do I Care for my Infant’s Teeth?
It is important that caregivers wipe infant’s gums with a clean, wet gauze or washcloth after every feeding. As soon as the first tooth appears, a ‘smear’ of fluoridated toothpaste should be used when brushing the teeth twice a day. It is also important to avoid putting infants to sleep with a bottle of milk, formula, sugar water, or fruit juice. If your infant falls asleep during feeding, make sure to wipe the teeth prior to placing them in bed.
By the age of two, parents should dispense a ‘pea-sized’ amount of toothpaste and continuously aid in the brushing process.
Can I use a “sippy” cup instead of a bottle?
Toddlers and young children should be encouraged to drink from a cup by their first birthday. A training or “sippy” cup should only be used as a training tool to move from the bottle to a cup. Children should not have anything other than water in their sippy cups, as sugary drinks can lead to an increase in caries risk.
Can frequency of eating lead to cavities?
It is important to understand that frequency of intake of foods that may contain hidden sugars and fermentable carbohydrates can lower the pH in the mouth leading to weakened enamel and eventual dental cavities. Giving the teeth a rest from food intake for at least 2 hours between meals and snacks is the best practice for maintaining tooth health.
While the 2000 Surgeon General Report referred to oral disease
as “a silent epidemic”, the TRUTH is that dental health professionals
can provide valuable information to help combat this disease.