Early childhood caries (ECC) are a particularly detrimental form of tooth decay, since they affect teeth that are still developing and, as such, are quite vulnerable. A recent study conducted by the University of Illinois (UI) identified the presence of bacteria in infant saliva known to cause ECC, thereby offering notable evidence to support the need for dental health care in babies.
The research efforts were led by Kelly Swanson, a UI professor of animal science. Analysis most closely examined the mouths of infants prior to the development of teeth, a subject largely unexamined by researchers studying children's oral health issues.
Swanson stated that 40 percent of children had cavities by the time they reached the age to attend kindergarten, and found that these issues began earlier than expected.
"We now recognize that the 'window of infectivity,' which was thought to occur between 19 and 33 months of age years ago, really occurs at a much younger age," he said.
He and his colleagues recommended minimizing infants' intake of snacks and drinks with fermentable sugars, and cleaning the gums of babies who had not yet developed teeth.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research states that children between the ages of 2 and 11 have an average of 1.6 primary teeth and 3.6 primary tooth surfaces showing evidence of decay.
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