Cavities are contagious

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, free dental screenings for first time patients through the end of spring

February 17, 2014

Dental caries, commonly known as tooth decay, is the single most common chronic childhood disease. In fact, it is an infectious disease. Mothers with cavities can transmit caries-producing oral bacteria to their babies when they clean pacifiers by sticking them in their own mouths or by sharing spoons.

According to Liliana Rozo, D.D.S., assistant profesor, University of Louisville School of Dentistry, tooth decay can have a detrimental effect on a child’s quality of life, performance in school and success in life. The disease can cause pain, inability to chew food well, embarrassment about discolored or damaged teeth, and distraction from play and learning.

These are among the tips a dentist can discuss with parents during a free dental screening for children who are first time patients of the UofL School of Dentistry. This promotion is being offered now through the end of spring. Call (502) 852-5642 to schedule an appointment.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) encourages parents to find a dental home for their baby as soon as the child’s first tooth erupts. Regular visits to a pediatric dentist will help parents become familiar with their child's dental and oral health milestones. They’ll inform parents about teething, proper oral hygiene habits, normal tooth development, and trauma prevention. Nutritional counseling also will be a part of the discussion.

Often, Rozo said, parents do not make the connection between oral health and overall health, but they are related. The mouth is an open door for many microbial infections to enter the bloodstream. Poor oral health may be a risk factor for systemic disease. Oral health manifestations, such as bleeding or dry mouth can indicate the presence of a systemic disease or exacerbate the effects of an existing disease such as diabetes and heart disease.

So parents, too, should make their own oral health care a priority in order to help their children stay healthy, said Rozo, an AAPD board certified pediatric dentist.

About UofL oral health care for children

The University of Louisville School of Dentistry Department of Orthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, and Special Care offers an Oral Health Education program for children from ages one to 17. Both parents and children are educated in areas of oral hygiene techniques, adequate use of Fluoride products, importance of a non-cariogenic diet and the importance of primary dentition. Children and adolescents will be evaluated regarding their growth and development of healthy mouths, jaws, teeth and gums. We are specialists who provide expert care for all children, including those with special needs such as autism or other complex systemic diseases. Orthodontics is also an important aspect of our program for those who need it. We offer dental treatments under sedation or general anesthesia as well as emergency coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The University of Louisville, School of Dentistry Pediatric Clinic has two locations: UofL School of Dentistry, 501 S. Preston Street and UofL School of Dentistry at Kosair Charities, 982 Eastern Parkway. Call (502) 852-5642 to schedule an appointment.