Baby teeth are worth more than what the tooth fairy leaves under a child’s pillow. According to data from the U.S Centers for Disease Control for a five year period ending in 2004, it found that 28 percent of all children age two to five had decayed teeth, and 23 percent of those children were receiving no treatment for tooth decay.
This decay is known as early childhood caries, ECC, and is now the most common cause of chronic disease.
“The idea is that the mouth is the gateway to the body. If the mouth is not healthy, the rest of the body isn’t either,” said Leonard Smith, pediatric dentist, M.A in Science, DDS, Fellow Royal College of Canada, Diplomat of the American Board of Pediatric Dentists, founder and president of Healthy Mouth Healthy Child.
ECC can be caused by the most obvious, not keeping up with basic dental care of children’s teeth, such as avoiding brushing and flossing after eating and drinking. However, the most surprising cause of ECC is toxic stress which can interrupt the neurodevelopment of a child, therefore making them prone to infection, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and preterm delivery.
“I also believe, pure speculative, half a cup of puss a day- that could have an impact on their gut and may be a correlation to immunes,” stated Dr. Smith.
Toxic stress is also caused by chronic pain from the tooth decay.
“Very sadly, people ignore the mouth- only baby teeth, they are going to fall out,” said Dr. Smith.
Furthermore, toxic stress can be caused by dysfunction in inter spousal relationship, such as in the case of domestic violence. According to Smith, women that are involved in relationships where there is domestic violence tend to feed a fussy child a bottle filled with sugar based drinks such as Kool-Aid, coke and even alcohol in order to sedate the child and keep him or her from waking up their spouse with loud cries. Over a period of time, the sugar can cause tooth decay in the child.
“A certain gut feeling, I ask whether there is dysfunction in inter spousal relationship,” said Dr. Smith regarding his experience with parents and the treatment of children with ECC.
Other causes of toxic stress include child abuse, neglect, sleep deprivation, malnutrition, enhanced obesity and learning disabilities.
Economic issues also have an impact on ECC, which is why Dr. Smith hopes to raise public awareness through a broad spectrum by talking to families, pediatricians, “the whole gamma of anyone who interacts with the families”. His goal is to make people aware of how important baby teeth are and teach preventative measures that families can take to minimize the risk of ECC.
“Not selling products, just trying to sell awareness,” stated Dr. Smith.
Dr. Smith suggests avoiding feeding a child a bottle with sugar at night, also to wash the bottle well after each use. Furthermore, women who are pregnant should also be taking care of their teeth. Mother’s with gum disease are prone to have a preterm delivery due to cells developing an immune response causing early contractions.
SOURCE: Leonard Smith, pediatric dentist, M.A in Science, DDS, Fellow Royal College of Canada, Diplomat of the American Board of Pediatric Dentists, founder and president of Healthy Mouth Healthy Child, November 2011.