Children are prone to many oral problems in early childhood, and that may not be getting enough attention from parents and health leaders.
Many parents may assume that early oral problems are less serious because the baby teeth that are affected will eventually be replaced with adult teeth. However, this isn’t necessarily true. Problems that begin in childhood may have lifelong consequences.
So, how important is early childhood oral health? Recent research suggests that it’s more important than anyone previously assumed. Early cavities and gum disease may lead directly to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood.
What The Research Revealed
The dangers of early oral disease were revealed in a study published in early 2019. The study took advantage of almost 30 years of data, starting in 1980.
At that beginning, nearly 800 children between 6 and 12 years of age were assessed through oral examinations. Researchers examined the children for any signs of oral infections and documented all cases of cavities, fillings, tooth loss, bleeding, and the presence of periodontal pockets.
Twenty-seven years later, the same subjects were evaluated a second time at the reached their early-to-late 30s. This time, researchers were looking at one of the most important factors for heart attacks and strokes—thickened artery walls.
What they found was that the children who had early oral infections were at a significantly higher risk of developing thickened artery walls, therefore at a higher risk for developing heart problems. Thickened walls directly increase blood pressure by decreasing the size of the passages that blood travels through.
This is a particularly serious threat because only 5% of the participants who were assessed in childhood had excellent oral health. Girls and boys were nearly equally in danger of having some sign of poor oral health, up to and including symptoms that signal gum disease.
What This Study Means for Your Child
Childhood tooth loss and gum disease cannot be safely ignored. Even if the damage is limited to teeth will be replaced, the damage may increase the risk of heart problems years down the line. Earlier research has already revealed links between gum disease and problems such as elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure.
It would be best if you didn't wait until adult teeth have grown in before you take your child’s oral health seriously. Through both preventative habits and intervention, you can lower your child’s risk of developing problems in the future.
Preventative Habits for Children
Helping your child develop good habits early in life is one of the most important ways that you can help them achieve excellent oral health.
Children should use soft toothbrushes designed for their age group. Adult toothbrushes are too abrasive and may damage teeth if used.
Children should brush twice a day, but many of them find the process and taste of toothpaste unpleasant. Make sure they are brushing regularly by supervising them until they are old enough to appreciate the habit.
Before adult teeth have grown in, you should be checking your child’s gums and teeth on a regular basis. Watch for signs of redness, bleeding, and misalignment.
Children under the age of six should not use mouthwash unless instructed by a pediatric dentist.
Gum Disease and Tooth Loss Intervention
Children can easily develop serious tooth infections and gum diseases. Young teeth are not well-protected by enamel, and may easily develop cavities that can quickly lead to the infection of the root. Certain infections may even threaten the adult teeth that are in the process of growing but have not yet erupted.
Gum disease can also develop early and quickly in small children. Any type of infection in small children is dangerous. You should speak to a pediatric dentist as soon as possible if you spot any of the signs of infection. Early intervention can prevent the infection from becoming worse.
Call us at 925-326-6114 or complete the Schedule An Appointment section below to learn more about detecting signs of oral infection and treatment.
DR. REZA KHAZAIE