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Tooth decay is the number one chronic infectious disease among kids in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By age 5, about 60 percent of children will have had tooth decay at some point, including the 40 percent of children who have it when they enter kindergarten.

As soon as baby teeth come in, there is the potential for tooth decay. Baby teeth serve as the blueprint and pathway for permanent teeth. So even though they eventually fall out, preventing tooth decay in baby teeth is one way to avoid future problems in permanent teeth.

As is the case with an infection anywhere in the body, an untreated infection will cause significant pain and can result in death in rare cases. 

Along with pain, children with untreated tooth decay also experience difficulty chewing, problems speaking, insufficient sleep and resulting self-esteem problems.

A “Dental Home” is the home base for a child’s oral health care needs – much like a pediatrician oversees a child’s overall health through the year. 

Parents and caregivers should start bringing their child to their selected pediatric dentist by the age of 1 to prevent tooth decay.

Simply put, there just hasn’t been enough education about when kids should start seeing the dentist – and that’s why AAPD is focused on educating parents and caregivers about the importance of an age 1 visit. 

Establishing a Dental Home by the age of 1 is the best way to establish a child’s oral health routine early and ultimately prevent tooth decay.

Pediatric dentists are specialists just for kids. They have two to three years of training beyond dental school which is focused on child psychology, growth and development and treating people with special health care needs.

As a parent of a child with special needs, you may have concerns about your child’s tolerance of a dental visit. Whatever your concerns, do not postpone preventive dentistry for your child. Pediatric dentists understand that each child is unique and may need extra care to feel comfortable during dental treatment. For example, one child might do great with positive communication, another might benefit from a body blanket to help control involuntary movements, and still another might need mild sedation to feel relaxed during treatment. Pediatric dentists stand ready with a variety of possible approaches; you can help select the approach that is best for the specific health and behavioral needs of your child.

The medical literature shows fluoride is a safe and effective tactic to reduce the occurrence of cavities.

However, as is the case with any supplement or treatment, correct dosage is key to a product’s safety. When it comes to using fluoride toothpaste, children under the age of 3 should have no more than a ‘smear’ or ‘rice-size’ amount of the paste on their toothbrush and kids aged 3-6 should only have a ‘pea-size’ amount on their toothbrush.

It’s important to establish a dental home – a home base for your child’s dental needs – by the time a child turns 1 so parents have an opportunity to ask questions of their child’s pediatric dentist. 

SPEAKER NOTE: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s policy on the use of fluoride can be found at here

There are three primary ways fluoride is made available to children. Parents and caregivers can discuss the proper amount of fluoride needed for their child’s teeth with their child’s pediatric dentist.

  • Fluoridated tap water – found in the water supply – creates low levels of fluoride in saliva, which reduces the rate at which tooth enamel demineralizes and increases the rate at which it remineralizes in the early stages of cavities 
  • Topical fluoride varnish – a temporarily adhesive form of high concentration fluoride applied directly to the tooth surface by a pediatric dentist 
  • Fluoride toothpaste – which is a consistent way to apply a low-dose application of fluoride to the teeth, making tooth enamel stronger and less likely to suffer from acid damage 
  • Professional Applied Fluoride

SPEAKER NOTE: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s policy on the use of fluoride can be found here