A Wake Up Call to Infants: Dentists Recommend ‘Healthier Lifestyle’
by Elizabeth McAvoy, RDH
Dental professionals have issued a serious wake-up call to infants around the world, encouraging them to live a healthier lifestyle. The bold announcement comes in the wake of new research that suggests up to 40% of American children have cavities and more serious dental caries by the time they reach kindergarten (i). According to a new study, those cavities are most likely the result of an unhealthy lifestyle during infancy.
To better understand how poor oral health during infancy can lead to cavities later in life, researchers at the University of Illinois studied the origin and spread of oral bacteria in babies between the ages of 12 and 24 months. Lead researcher and University professor, Dr. Kelly Swanson, summarizes the findings by explaining, “The soft tissue in the mouth appear to serve as reservoirs for potential pathogens prior to tooth [formation],” (i).
Infants Respond to Warning, Asking Parents for Help
In wake of the University of Illinois study, infants are asking parents for help in preventing the accumulation and spread of oral bacteria. By urging parents to better understand the basics on bacteria and oral hygiene for infants, babies hope to reduce the incidence of tooth decay among kindergartners by 2016.
In an effort to make this dream a reality, infants have aligned themselves with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) to spread awareness for the 5 best ways to prevent oral disease and tooth decay among infants and young children.
5 Tips from the AAPD for Healthier Lifestyle & Better Hygiene
The AAPD offers the following 5 tips to help parents effectively prevent the development of oral disease in young children (ii):
1. Schedule an oral health risk assessment.
By 6 months old, infants should have themselves taken to a licensed dental professional for a thorough check-up and health assessment. Additional check-ups are recommended every 6 months, unless otherwise recommended.
2. Establish a ‘dental home.’
Parents should aim to establish a ‘dental home’ for their child by the age of 12 months. There are many advantages to choosing a primary care provider, most important of which is establishing a record of medical history for both parents and child. This may help to determine the child’s susceptibility to oral disease, decay, and dental caries.
3. When it comes to teething, avoid anesthetics.
According to the AAPD, parents should consider using only oral analgesics and chilled teething rings to soothe the pain and irritation of teething. The AAPD advises parents to avoid over the counter anesthetics for concerns over toxicity.
4. Gently brush teeth, as they become visible.
As teeth become visible, parents must proactively brush all surfaces with a soft bristled toothbrush. In cleaning teeth after each meal, parents can prevent the formation of plaque and oral bacteria.
5. Focus on nutrition and meal timing.
Most importantly, the AAPD urges parents to consider how changes in nutrition and meal timing can significantly reduce oral health issues. The following behaviors are to be avoided, as research indicates they increase the risk of tooth decay: Breast feeding more than 7 times daily (after 12 months), nighttime bottle feeding, repeated use of non-spill cups, and sugary snacks in between meals.
Editorial Note and Disclaimer: Infants, in fact, can neither speak nor coordinate far-reaching public awareness campaigns in conjunction with national health organizations. This report has been created by a mother, health advocate, and dental hygienist at Assure A Smile, who has done her best to imagine how infants would respond to the alarming increase of tooth decay among young children.
(i) “Cavity Present in Saliva of Infants.” Medical Daily. Accessed 8 August 2013.
(ii) (iii) “Guideline on Infant Oral Healthcare.” American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Accessed 7 August 2013. Download PDF: http://www.aapd.org/media/Policies_Guidelines/G_infantOralHealthCare.pdf