Don’t overlook oral health in young children

December 4, 2014

Pediatricians should include oral health assessment, maintenance, and anticipatory guidance in their care of young children, a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.

 

Pediatricians should include oral health assessment, maintenance, and anticipatory guidance in their care of young children, a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Section on Oral Health recommends.

Dental caries is the most common chronic disease of childhood and it hasn’t decreased in prevalence over the past decade in children aged 2 to 4 years unlike in older children, the policy statement notes. Because children see the pediatrician more often than the dentist at these ages, pediatricians need to know about the disease process that causes caries; how to prevent dental caries; and what measures doctors and families can take to maintain and restore dental health.

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The policy statement offers a number of specific recommendations, including that pediatricians:

  • Perform a periodic dental health risk assessment for all children.

  • Integrate anticipatory guidance on oral health into patient counseling.

  • Advise caregivers and patients to reduce exposure to sugars in foods and drinks.

  • Encourage caregivers to brush children’s teeth as soon as they erupt with fluoride toothpaste (a rice-grain-sized amount initially, then a pea-sized amount at 3 years of age) and monitor brushing until age 8 years.

  • Maintain collaborative relationships with local dentists and recommend that every child have a dental home by 1 year of age.

For decisions about fluoride administration and supplementation, pediatricians can refer to the AAP clinical report, “Fluoride use in caries prevention in the primary care setting.”


 

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