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JOURNAL: Pediatrics 2003;111:1113-1116.
AUTHORS: Dr. Weiss
ABSTRACT: By the time they reach 6 months of age, all infants should be examined by a pediatrician to determine their risk of developing dental caries.
COMMENTARY: Children who appear most likely to develop caries should perhaps have their first visit with a dentist before the recommended age of 12 months.
More than 40% of US children show signs of tooth decay when they enroll in kindergarten, making the condition many times more common than either asthma or hay fever.
Pediatricians need to be aware of the risk factors for dental caries in young children and, if indicated, make a referral to the dentist, the authors emphasize.
Although tooth decay is a general problem in children, some risk factors have been identified. For example, low socioeconomic status and consumption of sugary foods are known to increase the risk of dental caries.
Still, the direct cause of such disease is generally the overgrowth of certain bacterial types. Dr. Weiss explained that the types of bacteria a person carries in his or her mouth is essentially set by the age of 2 years old. This makes intervening early in life especially important.
Infants are likely get their first dose of these bacteria from their mothers or other close caretakers--often from sharing utensils--so risk assessments involve checking a mother's oral health, which can help determine her child's risk of also inheriting her cavities.