Academy of Pediatrics tackles children's oral health

In a recent policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) acknowledges the significant impact dental caries has on the health of young children and the important role pediatricians play in dental disease prevention.

The statement declares that dental caries is a “common and chronic disease process with significant short- and long-term consequences.” The statement goes on to encourage pediatricians to conduct a risk assessment for caries by focusing on the key risk factors for dental caries that are associated with diet, bacteria, saliva and status of the teeth (both current status and previous caries experience).

“As health care professionals responsible for the overall health of children, pediatricians frequently confront morbidity associated with dental caries,” the policy statement says. “Because the youngest children visit the pediatrician more often than they visit the dentist, it is important that pediatricians be knowledgeable about the disease process of dental caries, prevention of the disease and interventions available to the pediatrician and the family to maintain and restore health."

Currently, 24 percent of U.S. children ages 2 to 4 years old, 53 percent of children 6 to 8 years old and 56 percent of 15-year-olds have caries experience. In children 2 to 4 years of age, the caries experience increased significantly, from 19 percent to 24 percent, during 1988–1994 and 1999–2004.

AAP, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association, the American Association of Public Health Dentistry and CDA all recommend children have their first visit to the dentist by age one. The AAP policy also recommends parents:

  • Discourage putting a child to bed with a bottle. Establish a bedtime routine conducive to optimal oral health (e.g., brush, book and bed).
  • Wean from a bottle by 1 year of age.
  • Limit sugary foods and drinks to mealtimes.
  • Avoid carbonated, sugared beverages and juice drinks that are not 100 percent juice.
  • Limit the intake of 100 percent fruit juice to no more than 4 to 6 ounces per day.
  • Encourage children to drink only water between meals, preferably fluoridated tap water.

For additional information and tips from the Ad Council’s Kids’ Healthy Mouths campaign, which CDA is a part of, visit 2min2x.org/kids-healthy-mouths.

View the AAP’s full policy statement here.

Topics: Oral Health