Oral Health of Young Children: Role of pediatrician

Oral health makes an integral part of the overall health of children. Dental caries is a common chronic disease process with significant short- and long-term consequences. Its prevalence is >40% among children 2 to 19 years of age. Although dental visits have increased in all ages, races, and geographic categories, a significant portion of children still have difficulty accessing dental care. As healthcare professionals responsible for children's overall health, pediatricians frequently encounter morbidity associated with dental caries. 

Since children visit the pediatrician more often than the dentist, pediatricians must be knowledgeable about the disease process of dental caries, disease prevention, interventions to maintain and restore health, and the social determinants of children's oral health.

Pediatricians are recommended to assess children's oral health risks at health maintenance and other relevant visits and include anticipatory guidance for oral health as an integral part of comprehensive patient counseling. It is crucial to counsel parents/caregivers and patients on ways to reduce the frequency of exposure to sugars in foods and drinks; and encourage them to brush their teeth at least twice a day as soon as teeth erupt with a smear or a grain–of–rice–sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, increasing to a pea-sized amount at three years of age accompanied with assistance and monitoring brushing until ten years of age.

Pediatricians should also refer to the AAP clinical report, "Fluoride Use in Caries Prevention in the Primary Care Setting," and be aware of the dental resources in their community as sources of referral and consultation.

Krol DM, Whelan K. Maintaining and Improving the Oral Health of Young Children. Pediatrics (2023) 151 (1): e2022060417. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2022-060417

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