Winter Letter 2016
You may be surprised to learn that early dental caries is the most common, chronic disease of American children. And even though tooth decay has decreased or stayed the same in some age groups, early childhood caries – especially among the youngest and poorest populations – continues to rise.
In what some are calling a "seismic shift," the nation's pediatricians are stepping in to help. This makes sense because pediatricians see babies and children more often than dentists – and oral health is an integral part of a child's overall well-being.
Against this backdrop, pediatricians are being taught how to identify early dental caries, provide prevention and apply fluoride varnish during routine office visits. In fact, at the 2015 national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), physicians got hands-on experience applying the varnish to the teeth of volunteer youngsters.
It takes only a few minutes for a doctor or dentist to paint fluoride varnish on the tops and sides of a child's teeth. The application does not hurt, dries in minutes and the child can eat soft, room-temperature food or liquids shortly afterwards. This simple treatment goes a long way in the prevention of tooth decay.
Even with pediatricians joining in the campaign against cavities, dental visits are still important. In fact, the AAP, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Dental Association and American Association of Public Health Dentistry all recommend children visit a dentist by age one or when the first tooth appears. However, children who do not have the access or opportunity to see a dentist this early on can benefit from knowledgeable pediatricians.
During your baby's next checkup, talk with the pediatrician about what oral care or fluoride varnish is appropriate. And keep in mind, fluoride treatments are effective – but it is the parent's role to help their child with brushing, flossing, getting regular checkups and eating a healthy diet.
Linda Ciampa, RN