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New Screening System For Early Detection Of Dental Caries in Toddlers

omes a much larger problem," said Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski, D.D.S., assistant professor of Dentistry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and author of the study. "By catching ECC at its earliest stage, we will effectively save the patient and parent toothache and heartache, decrease use of emergency room services, and increase the usage of dentists by this underserved population."

Typically found in children aged five and under, the practice of putting a baby to bed with a bottle, which the baby can suck on for hours, is the major cause of ECC. The sugary liquid flows over the baby's upper front teeth and dissolves the enamel, causing decay that can lead to infection and cavities. ECC is rampant in minority communities, where access to dental care is uncommon. National estimates put up to 25 percent of minority children aged 1-5 suffering with the painful and often disfiguring condition.

If caught early on, parental education, fluoride treatments and sealants can slow down the decay, allowing teeth to naturally fall out as the child ages. But when the disease progresses unchecked, invasive treatment is the only choice, including sedation and extraction of the tooth.

One key to addressing this oral disease lies in the development of a cost-effective screening process, yet dentists have long struggled to find a balance point at which a large-scale screening program would be successful without generating exorbitant labor costs.

"Unfortunately, early childhood dental caries tends to occur in children who are not yet under the care of dentists, so there is no existing system of care that we can simply insert a screening exam into," Kopycka-Kedzierawski said. "When we saw the success being experienced by the Health-e-Access telemedicine network here in Rochester, we knew we had the potential for a very cost-effective and successful solution."

Health-e-Access is one the nation's largest telemedicine
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