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Dental Caries in Early Childhood

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This collection of selected resources offers current, high-quality information about dental caries in early childhood. Use the tools below for further searching, or contact us for personalized assistance.

Key Facts

  Share these facts to help improve the oral health of children and their families.

  • Many children endure needless pain and suffering as a result of oral disease. 1
  • Increased maternal salivary bacteria level is associated with oral infection among children and predicts increased early childhood caries rate occurrence. 2
  • American Indian children have the highest rate of early childhood caries of any population group within the United States. 1
  • Existing effective management strategies for early childhood caries include caries risk assessment, brushing with fluoridated toothpaste, fluoride varnish applications, and certain behavioral interventions that affect preventive self-care practices. 3
  • Parents routinely overestimate their children’s oral health status and underestimate their children’s treatment needs, especially for children under age 2. Significant improvements in pediatric oral health likely will be realized only when effective and efficient strategies to educate parents are implemented. 4
  • Oral health professionals need to determine the reasons parents seek oral health care for their children in emergency departments and ambulatory surgery facilities and to implement effective strategies for preventing early childhood caries to reduce parents’ need to seek care for their children in these settings. 5
  • Eight years after their first dental visit, children who begin receiving oral health care when they are under age 4 require fewer restorations, crowns, pulpotomies, and extractions and have lower expenditures for treatment procedures than children who begin receiving care at age 4 or over. 6
  • Creative interventions such as motivational interviewing are needed to promote positive health practices among parents of young children to lower the risk for dental caries in children. 7

References

  1. Phipps KR, Ricks TL, Manz MC, Blahut P. 2012. Prevalence and severity of dental caries among American Indian and Alaska Native preschool children. Journal of Public Health Dentistry 72(3):208–215.
  2. Chaffee BW, Gansky SA, Weintraub JA, Featherstone JD, Ramos-Gomez FJ. 2014. Maternal oral bacterial levels predict early childhood caries development. Journal of Dental Research 93(3):238–244.
  3. Garcia R, Borrelli B, Dhar V, Douglass J, Gomez FR, Hieftje K, Horowitz A, Li Y, Ng MW, Twetman S, Tinanoff N. 2015. Progress in early childhood caries and opportunities in research, policy, and clinical management. Pediatric Dentistry 37(3):294-299.
  4. Divaris K, Vann WF, Baker AD, Lee JY. 2012. Examining the accuracy of caregivers’ assessments of young children's oral health status. Journal of the American Dental Association 143(11):1237–1247.
  5. Nagarkar SR, Kumar JV, Moss ME. 2012. Early childhood caries-related visits to emergency departments and ambulatory surgery facilities and associated charges in New York state. Journal of the American Dental Association 143(1):59–65.
  6. Nowak AJ, Casamassimo PS, Scott J, Moulton R. 2014. Do early dental visits reduce treatment and treatment costs for children? Pediatric Dentistry 36(7):489–93.
  7. Freudenthal JJ, Bowen DM. 2010. Motivational interviewing to decrease parental risk-related behaviors for early childhood caries. Journal of Dental Hygiene 84(1):29–34.

OHRC Publications

This section contains OHRC-produced materials.


Details

Holt K, Barzel R, Bertness J. 2016. It shouldn't hurt to be a child: Preventing early childhood caries (ECC). Washington, DC: National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center, 4 pp

National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center
Georgetown University Box 571272
Washington, DC 20057-1272

Telephone: (202) 784-9771
E-mail: OHRCinfo@georgetown.edu
Website: https://www.mchoralhealth.org
Available from the website.

This fact sheet for health professionals provides information on preventing early childhood caries (ECC). Topics include what ECC is and who is at risk, the costs of ECC, and how ECC risk can be reduced. The fact sheet discusses the prevalence of ECC among various populations and why some populations are at higher risk than others, how ECC is treated and the impact of treatment on children and families, and effective strategies for preventing ECC. [Funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau]


Details

Holt K, Barzel R, eds. 2018. Promoting oral health in young children: A resource guide (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center, 24 pp

National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center
Georgetown University Box 571272
Washington, DC 20057-1272

Telephone: (202) 784-9771
E-mail: OHRCinfo@georgetown.edu
Website: https://www.mchoralhealth.org
Available from the website.

This resource guide provides information to health professionals to assist them in planning, developing, and implementing efforts to ensure that children receive optimal oral health care. The resource guide describes materials, including brochures, fact sheets, guides, manuals, and reports as well as federal agencies, resource centers, and national professional associations that may serve as resources. [Funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau]


Details

Holt K, Clark M, Barzel R. 2009. Two healthy smiles: Tips to keep you and your baby healthy (rev.). Washington, DC: National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center, 2 pp

National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center
Georgetown University Box 571272
Washington, DC 20057-1272

Telephone: (202) 784-9771
E-mail: OHRCinfo@georgetown.edu
Website: https://www.mchoralhealth.org
Available at no charge; also available from the website.

This brochure is designed to educate women about the importance of oral hygiene and oral health care during pregnancy. Topics include brushing, flossing, eating healthy foods, and getting dental check-ups and treatment. Additional topics include the impact of hormonal changes during pregnancy on gum health, caring for an infant’s gums and teeth, and finding a dentist. The brochure is available in English and Spanish. [Funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau]


Details

National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness. 2014–. Healthy habits for happy smiles. Elk Grove Village, IL: National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness, 26 pp

Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center
Telephone: (866) 763-6481
E-mail: health@ecetta.info
Website: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc
Available from the website.

This series of handouts for pregnant women and parents of infants and young children provides simple tips on oral health issues. Topics include taking care of oral health during pregnancy, managing teething pain, taking care of infants’ oral health, brushing children’s teeth, toothbrushing positions and tips for brushing the teeth of children with special health care needs, choosing healthy drinks, giving healthy snacks, getting fluoride, preventing oral injuries, giving first aid for oral injuries, and finding and visiting a dental clinic. The series is available in English and Spanish.

     


OHRC Library

This section contains recent materials, not including OHRC-produced materials.


Details

Dye BA, Thornton-Evans G, Li X, Iafolla TJ. 2015. Dental caries and sealant prevalence in children and adolescents in the United States, 2011–2012. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 7 pp

National Center for Health Statistics
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 3311 Toledo Road, Room 5419
Hyattsville, MD 20782

Telephone: (800) 232-4636
Secondary Telephone: (888) 232-6348
Fax: (301) 458-4020
E-mail: nchsquery@cdc.gov
Website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs
Available from the website.

This report describes the prevalence of dental caries and dental sealants in children and adolescents by age, race, and Hispanic origin in the United States. Topics include disparities for dental caries and dental sealant prevalence in children and adolescents in 2011–2012. Definitions, the data source, and a discussion of methods are included.


Details

Lee J. 2014. Early preventive dental visits. Chicago, IL: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Pediatric Oral Health Research and Policy Center, 6 pp

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Pediatric Oral Health Research and Policy Center
211 East Chicago Avenue, Suite 1600
Chicago, IL 60611-2637

Telephone: (312) 337-2169
Secondary Telephone: (800) 544-2174
Fax: (312) 337-6329
E-mail: pohrpc@aapd.org
Website: http://www.aapd.org/policy_center
Available from the website.

This report provides information about the importance of early preventive dental visits. Topics include the consequences of waiting to receive dental care, the rationale for early preventive dental visits in medicine, the cost-effectiveness of early dental intervention, and the effectiveness of early dental visits. Statistical information about average costs of dental care and for average related costs of treatment in the hospital/operating room for children ages 1–5 are provided.


Details

Phipps KR, Ricks TL. 2015. The oral health of 1–5 year old American Indian and Alaska Native children: Results of the 2014 IHS Oral Health Survey. Rockville, MD: U.S. Indian Health Service, Division of Oral Health, 9 pp

U.S. Indian Health Service, Division of Oral Health
5600 Fishers Lane, Mail Stop 08N34 A
Rockville, MD 20852

Telephone: (800) 447-3368
E-mail: dentaljobs@ihs.gov
Website: http://www.ihs.gov/dentistry
Available from the website.

This brief presents findings from a national survey to assess the oral health status of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children ages 1–5. Contents include information on the prevalence of tooth decay in the primary and permanent teeth of AI/AN children ages 1–5 in 2014 at both the national and Indian Health Service Area level, as well as trends in the oral health of this population since 2010. The brief also describes the prevalence of dental sealants on a primary molar tooth among this population.


Details

Reusch C, Booth M, Foster M. 2015. Reducing early childhood tooth decay: Strategies for state Medicaid and CHIP dental program managers. Baltimore, MD: U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 5 pp

U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21244

Telephone: (877) 267-2323
Secondary Telephone: (410) 786-3000
Fax:
Website: https://www.cms.gov
Available from the website.

This issue brief for state oral health program managers presents strategies for preventing and managing early childhood caries in children enrolled in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The brief also provides examples of state efforts to implement prevention, risk-assessment, care-plan, and quality-improvement strategies in Medicaid and CHIP.


Details

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. 2014. Dental caries in children from birth through age 5 years: Screening. Rockville, MD: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, multiple items

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
540 Gaither Road
Rockville, MD 20850

Telephone: (301) 427-1584
Website: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org
Available from the website.

These resources summarize the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations and evidence for preventing dental caries in infants and children from birth through age 5. Contents include a recommendation statement, an evidence report, a research plan, a clinical summary, a consumer fact sheet, and an evidence synthesis. Topics include prescribing fluoride supplements for infants and children starting at age 6 months whose water supply is deficient in fluoride and applying fluoride varnish to infants’ and children’s teeth starting upon eruption of the first primary tooth.

     

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