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AAP: How to improve child’s oral health

In a recent report, the American Academy of Pediatrics outlined steps parents and pediatricians can take to prevent tooth decay in pediatric patients.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has provided updated guidance on how to maintain and improve oral health in children in their report, “Maintaining and Improving the Oral Health of Young Children,” published in the January 2023 issue of Pediatrics.

According to the AAP, tooth decay is present in over 45% of children by age 19, with poverty, insurance, and language factors contributing to many families being unable to access proper dental care. 

“Pediatricians can help parents learn to prevent tooth decay in their children from the time they are infants, even before the first tiny teeth emerge,” said David M. Krol, MD, MPH, FAAP, lead author of the report. “Families can instill good habits early by never putting a child to bed with a bottle, avoiding sugary drinks, and serving as role models by brushing and flossing regularly.”

Additional guidance from the AAP includes having children drink onlywater between meals and avoiding letting children aged under 1 year drink juice. The AAP also provided recommended limits for juice intake in different age groups.

Children aged 1 to 3 years should not exceed 4 ounces of juice intake daily, while children aged 4 to 6 years should not exceed 6 ounces. Children aged 7 to 18 years should not drink more than 1 cup of juice daily

Fluoride also contributes to avoiding tooth decay. Kaitlin Whelan, MD, FAAP, co-author of the report, recommended fluoride toothpaste and rinses to provide an effective amount of fluoride. For additional care, Whelan stated that pediatricians or dentists can use fluoride varnish for tooth care in a child 2 to 4 times per year.

The AAP provided additional guidance to pediatricians, such as assessing children’s oral health risks, including oral health guidance in patient counseling, andgiving patients and guardians advice on how to reduce sugary drink and food intake.

Pediatricians should also encourage parents and caregivers to maintain their and their child’s oral health and assist in and monitor brushing until their child is aged 10 years. Pediatricians can also build and maintain relationships with local dentist providers, as the AAP recommends children have a dental home before they are aged 1 year.

“We have made strides in treating more children for tooth decay over the past decade,” Krol said. “But preventing decay is always the best way to go.”

Reference

American Academy of Pediatrics updates recommendations on maintaining, improving children’s oral health. American Academy of Pediatrics. December 19, 2022. Accessed December 15, 2022.