Dental caries (tooth decay) is the most common chronic disease affecting children in the United States that is preventable. It is 5 times more common than asthma and 7 times more common than hay fever. It is an infection of the teeth that cannot be cured by antibiotics. Pediatricians and other child health professionals can have a major impact on oral health outcomes for children through early intervention such as counseling families, identifying high-risk children, initiating timely dental referrals, and administration of appropriate fluoride modalities.
In young children from 0 to 3 years of age, it is called early childhood caries. The bacteria that causes the infection usually comes from the parents, so it is important parents brush their teeth with a fluoridated toothpaste and drink water that is fluoridated. Fluoride keeps the bacteria from attacking the teeth. This is very important to start early, especially during pregnancy.
Pediatric dentists recommend they see young children at 1 year of age. The toddlers tooth has very thin enamel and cannot withstand the acid caused by eating foods such as pop, candies, or juices more than once a day. The acid wears the enamel down, giving the bacteria the chance to cause the infection. Proper diet, oral hygiene and timely visits to health professionals for exams and treatments are key to preserving teeth over the lifespan.
IA AAP Supports the Dentist by 1 Programs
Only 8% of Iowa children see their family dentist by age 1. That’s a staggering fact when the AAP and other organizations recommend that children should go to the dentist within six months of getting their first tooth and no later than their first birthday. IA AAP recently signed on as a supporter of the “Dentist by 1” campaign sponsored by the Delta Dental Foundation of Iowa. For more information on children’s dental health, visit A Guide to Children's Dental Health.
The Faculty members and residents from the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Iowa have developed educational videos for health professionals on various pediatric oral health topics. The videos include:
- The infant and toddler oral exam
- How to assess a child's risk for caries
- A tooth-brushing protocol
- Information for parents about the importance of oral health for young children and pregnant women.
The Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Iowa provides online oral health training for medical and dental professionals, and all other professionals involved with young children. Its purpose is to familiarize these professionals with different topics related to the oral health of young children such as caries epidemiology, preventive measures, anticipatory guidance, as well as the incorporation of oral health into the medical home. Each of the seven teaching modules has a pre- and post-test in case those who take this training would like to assess their knowledge improvement and an answer key to each teaching module test is available.