Early Childhood Caries Risk Factors
The most common chronic condition affecting children in the US from ages 2 to 5 years old is dental caries. They manifest first as white spots, small areas of demineralization under the enamel. At this stage it is reversible. But if oral conditions do not improve, those spots will become cavities destroying tooth contour. If they progress, pulp death and tooth loss can ensue. Severe cases can lead to systemic infections.
Caries in early childhood is associated with impaired growth, decreased weight and poor quality of life. There is failure to thrive. Appearance, speech, self-esteem and school performance are affected. Their permanent dentition will face higher risk as well. On top of these, repairs or pulling out of damaged teeth can be traumatic experiences for the young.
Children who are susceptible to early dental caries share the following risk factors: high levels of caries-causing bacterial colonies, frequent intake of sugar and carbohydrates-rich foods, low saliva flow rates, developmental defects in the enamel, high levels of caries in the mother, poor oral hygiene of the mother, and inappropriate bottle feeding.
There are other risk factors worth noting: insufficient access to dental care, low water fluoride levels in the community, inadequate use of fluoride toothpaste, and parent’s insufficient knowledge on oral health.
This goes to show that America’s number one chronic disease in children is a national concern that should involve multiple sectors – local communities, schools, private sector and government. Efforts like screening and other screening strategies prior to school entry can catch caries at their initial stages. Primary care clinicians, who see children routinely after they are born, are pivotal in identifying and tracking young children’s dental health.
However, two-thirds of children don’t see any dentist until they get older. Once children enter school, there are more opportunities for screening and treatment.
Fluoridation of the community’s water system is another intervention effort that is government initiated, an achievement in public health. Organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) make recommendations that become policies impacting the practise of health-givers to do screening and recommend proper fluoride use.
Screening for Dental Caries in Seattle
Know from your Downtown Seattle dentist if your child is at high risk for dental caries. Know what you can do to improve his or her chances at better oral health. Feel free to ask our Seattle dentist, Dr. Jaime Lee about it.