Everyone knows that children are more at risk for cavities than adults, but many do not know that this starts with infancy. Until recently, researchers thought that the first chance for a child to start having oral infections occurred between 19 and 33 months of age, but now they are learning that that point in the child’s life actually occurs much sooner.

In a recent study conducted by the University of Illinois, researchers have found certain bacteria that are responsible for childhood cavities are actually present in even very young infants. “The soft tissues in the mouth appear to serve as reservoirs for potential pathogens prior to tooth eruption.” said Kelly Swanson, the lead researcher on this project. This means that the bacteria that causes cavities could be working in infants’ mouths before they even have teeth, increasing their susceptibility to cavities when teeth do emerge. Swanson went on to say that this research could help us to further understand the microbial changes in the mouth as infants grow into a child’s diet, such as when changing from liquid to solid food as well as the change in types of nutrition that occurs as the infant grows.

It is important to begin oral health care earlier for infants than previously thought. With this knowledge we now understand that working to stop these bacteria early in a child’s life could be a key factor to preventing cavities and other dental illnesses later in life. Fermentable sugars often act as a breeding ground for harmful oral bacteria. Decreasing the number of foods and drinks that contain fermentable sugars in the child’s diet will likely decrease these bacteria and help prevent future cavities. Wiping the infant’s toothless gums after he or she eats is also very important to preventing the growth of bacteria in the infant’s mouth.

This new information may start to mean a lot to new parents. This should open up the doors to a wide variety of new information about keeping cavities out of children’s mouths well after they have grown their teeth. This can also lead to a wealth of new information about the proper dietary needs of infants and children as it relates to their oral care. New parents should be on the look out for more information to emerge on these topics in the coming years, because it shouldn’t be too much longer before we discover better techniques for proper infant oral care. Maybe soon we will be able to give our children the better start that they need, and before long hopefully we can greatly reduce the amount of oral infections that children will have over the course of their lifetime.

If you are interested in more information on oral care for your infant, you should make an appointment with Dr. James A. Wells with South Charlotte Dentistry. If you would like to make an appointment with Dr. Wells’ Ballantyne office, don’t hesitate to call 704-759-0908.

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