What is the most common children’s chronic infectious disease?

It’s tooth decay. While there has been much improvement in the oral health of America’s children during the last quarter of the 20th century, this improvement has not reached the 1 in 4 children who are born into poverty. These children and adolescents have twice the tooth decay as other children AND it is unlikely to be treated.


Untreated tooth decay and other oral diseases, such as gum disease, lead to chronic pain and difficulty eating.  And, remember, chronic inflammation and poor oral health has been linked to heart disease.


What can be done to protect children’s oral health, especially in today’s difficult economy?


  • Good oral health begins in the womb, when teeth are forming.  Every pregnant woman should have prenatal care, beginning during the first three months of pregnancy. Use every means available to eat healthy food and take the supplements prescribed by your healthcare provider. Apply for WIC http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/. You are not alone and you are investing in your baby’s future.


  • After the baby is born, continue with a healthy diet and supplements, especially if you are breast feeding. You are investing in your baby’s future.


  • As soon as the baby’s teeth begin coming in, wipe down the teeth with a damp cloth twice a day. DO NOT put anything but plain water in the baby’s bottle at naptime or bedtime. Milk, formula or sugar water will remain in the baby’s mouth and encourage tooth decay.


  • Begin brushing your baby’s teeth at around two years old. Use very little toothpaste (about the size of a pea), especially if you are using a fluoride toothpaste.


  • Take your baby and children for regular check-ups and ask your healthcare provider about oral care. You are investing in your baby’s future.


February is Children’s Dental Health Month. 

For more information access http://www.cdc.gov/OralHealth/topics/child.htm


Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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