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CDC data shows early childhood caries trending down

'May indicate promising trend,' says ADA president

October 24, 2014

By Craig Palmer

Ellicott City, Md. — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data presented at an Oct. 23-24 dental conference shows a downward trend in early childhood caries in the United States.

"Untreated decay is now on a downward trend," Dr. Bruce Dye, dental epidemiology officer at the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, told some 260 dentists, academicians, dental personnel, industry representatives, researchers and students. "Treated decay is on an upward trend. Most of what we're seeing is based on treated disease."

The preliminary unpublished data represents "a first look at where we are in the United States" now, said Dr. Dye. A CDC report on the data is in preparation and will be released "in the next few months."

"This preliminary analysis may indicate a promising trend," said Dr. Maxine Feinberg, ADA president. "We are encouraged that it shows far less untreated tooth decay in children, with dentists providing needed treatment. Dental Medicaid visits have been increasing and more kids are seeing the dentist. Now, we must stay the course, building on that momentum to continue making an impact for children and expand efforts to prevent dental disease before it starts."

Dr. Feinberg, who took office Oct. 15 as the Association's 151st president, said in a statement, "Dental access, prevention and care initiatives are making a positive difference in dental health for patients and the ADA is committed to continuing to support and promote increased alignment of efforts and partnering to better fuel the momentum."
In a slide presentation on the prevalence and measurement of early childhood caries, Dr. Dye said measurements and definitions have varied over time but the review of the literature suggests that earlier reported upward caries trends have recently been reversed. He described many terms that have been used to describe dental caries in primary teeth. These include baby bottle tooth decay, nursing bottle mouth, nursing bottle caries, nursing bottle syndrome, bottle-popping caries, milk bottle syndrome and prolong nursing habit caries. Studies have reported on the prevalence and severity of dental caries in preschool children using these different terms. The current case definition from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research labeled as ECC is the presence of at least one carious lesion on a primary tooth in a child under the age of 6 years.

"The greater proportion of caries experience in the U.S. among 2-5 year olds has clearly shifted towards more restored dental surfaces for all 20 primary teeth as well as just for the upper anterior incisors," Dr. Dye said in a slide presentation. "Observed increase in the prevalence of restored primary teeth suggests a decade's long trend of increase[d] treatment of caries in preschool children."

The University of Maryland School of Dentistry offered the conference on innovations in the prevention and treatment of early childhood caries with educational grants from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, DentaQuest Foundation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.