This page has been optimized for print.

MOST PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS UNAWARE THEIR BEST INTENTIONS MAY BE FOSTERING TOOTH DECAY IN CHILDREN

New Survey Shows Parents and Caregivers are Uninformed about Cavity-Causing Bacteria and Teeth-Friendly Snacks

CHICAGO - January 28, 2009 /PRNewswire/ — According to a recent survey by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the recognized leader in children's oral health, many parents and caregivers are unaware that routine practices, such as providing healthy snacks and sharing utensils, may increase children's risk of developing cavities.

The national survey, conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by the AAPD, found that 96% of U.S. adults with children under 12 years old in their household thought a cracker was better for children's teeth than a piece of caramel. The truth is that starches can lead to cavities just as sugars can, and caramels dissolve more quickly from the mouth than crackers.1 Therefore, the longer children's teeth are exposed to the food, the more damage is done. A cracker may be more figure-friendly, but it is not a teeth-friendly snack.

Additionally, the survey shows that only 13% of adults with children under 12 years old in their household know that they can spread cavities to children, similar to a cold or the flu. Children are not born with cavity causing-bacteria in their mouths, and babies and small children can actually "catch" bacteria from their caregivers.2,3 Sharing utensils or letting children put their fingers in your mouth can transfer bacteria in the saliva, which can cause tooth decay.

"Although most parents and caregivers don't believe they are putting their children at risk for tooth decay, many parents and caregivers unfortunately - and unintentionally - are doing so," said AAPD President Dr. Beverly Largent. "Cavities and other dental health issues affect not only your child's ability to speak and maintain a healthy self-image, but they can contribute to systemic health issues later in life, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. This is why we are reminding parents and caregivers about simple things they can do to protect their child's teeth."

Proper oral care is important in ensuring children enjoy overall good health, so this February during National Children's Dental Health Month, the AAPD encourages all caregivers to support proper oral care at home and to make sure all children see a pediatric dentist by their first birthday.

For more information about how to keep children's teeth healthy or to locate a pediatric dentist in your area, visit www.aapd.org.

The AAPD reminds parents what they may not know could harm their children's teeth. Here are some facts that can help protect against tooth decay:

  • Cooked starches, such as pretzels and pasta, can lead to cavities just like sugar. More saliva, which washes away starches and sugars, is produced when eating a meal, so both are safer for teeth if eaten with a meal instead of as a snack.
  • Caregivers can pass germs that cause cavities from utensils, cups and other objects, so they should be washed thoroughly before sharing with children.
  • Do not put your young child to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice, and in between meals, only serve older children water. When kids sip for extended periods on sugared beverages, they're exposed to a higher risk of decay.
  • Don't be afraid of chocolate milk. It provides protein, calcium and vitamins like white milk and washes off teeth the same. And since children like it, they often drink more.
  • Since most bottled water does not contain fluoride, look for a brand with added fluoride since water with fluoride is the number one way to prevent tooth decay.
  • Tooth decay can start as soon as a tooth appears, so children should see a dentist shortly after their first tooth or before their first birthday.

1 Kashket S, van Houte J, Lopez LR, Stocks S. Lack of correlation between food retention on the human dentition and consumer perception of food stickiness. J Dent Res 1991;70:1314-9
2 Berkowitz RJ. Mutans streptococci: Acquisition and transmission. Pediatric Dentistry 2006;28(2):106-9
3 Loescshe WJ. Dental caries: A treatable infection. Automated Diagnostic Documentation Inc. 1993.

About the AAPD

Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) is a not-for-profit membership association representing the specialty of pediatric dentistry. The AAPD's 7,500 members are primary oral health care providers who offer comprehensive specialty treatment for millions of infants, children, adolescents, and individuals with special health care needs. The AAPD also represents general dentists who treat a significant number of children in their practices. As advocates for children's oral health, the AAPD develops and promotes evidence-based policies and guidelines, fosters research, contributes to scholarly work concerning pediatric oral health, and educates health care providers, policymakers, and the public on ways to improve children's oral health. For further information, please visit the AAPD Web site at www.aapd.org.

About The Survey

The survey was conducted by telephone within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry between December 11 and 14, 2008 among 1,002 adults ages 18+ of whom 205 have a child(ren) under the age of 12 in their household. For complete methodology, including weighting variables please contact Tara Weintraub at tara.weintraub@edelman.com.