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Tooth Decay Is Kids' Stuff
Date:11/25/2007

Attention to dental care can even start in the womb, experts say

SUNDAY, Nov. 25 (HealthDay News) -- The dental health of Americans is improving as people take better care of their teeth. But that encouraging trend doesn't extend to some of the country's most vulnerable individuals -- children.

Studies have found that baby tooth decay is on the rise. One federal report found that decay in baby teeth among 2- to 5-year-olds increased from 24 percent to 28 percent from 1988 to 2004.

This decay can have unwanted lasting effects on a child's overall heath, ranging from impairment of permanent teeth to systemic illness caused by infection from bacteria in the mouth.

Jean Connor, a dental hygienist in Cambridge, Mass., and president of the American Dental Hygienists Association, said parents need to teach their children that a clean mouth is just as desirable as clean ears or hands or feet.

"It's just another part of the body that must be kept clean," Connor said. "If you have a dirty mouth, you're carrying bacteria and infections around."

Baby teeth are often thought of as disposable or temporary. But if left to decay, those teeth can fill the mouth with bacteria that could harm the permanent teeth as they come in. And if baby teeth are pulled early due to decay, the permanent teeth behind them can come in crooked.

Oral cleanliness can come from a variety of techniques. Parents should teach their kids how to brush and floss and also how to keep their mouth clean by watching what they eat.

This care can start even before a child is born, said Diann Bomkamp, a dental hygienist in St. Louis, and president-elect of the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA).

Expecting mothers can give their unborn children an advantage by taking special care of their dental health during pregnancy, Bomkamp said.

"If the pregnant woman does not have good dental care, s
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