The Surgeon General, in 2000, described a “silent epidemic of dental and oral diseases…affecting some population groups.” He also suggested that “oral health is more than just healthy teeth.” Both of these statements were a call to arms for all health care providers, not just the dental community, to incorporate oral health into the daily practice of healthcare.
Dental disease is common in children. Dental caries (tooth decay) is the most common chronic disease of childhood, 5 times more common than asthma. More than 50% of 6- to 11-year-olds have had dental caries in their primary teeth and nearly 70% of 16- to 19-year-olds had experienced dental caries in their permanent teeth. Unfortunately, the prevalence of dental caries in primary teeth has significantly increased over the past 15 years. The Surgeon General report also reviews the impact of several conditions, including dental trauma and tobacco use, on oral health, general health, and society.
Many dental problems, such as dental caries and dental trauma, are preventable. Primary prevention can and should begin in the pediatrician’s office, with subsequent coordination and collaboration with dental colleagues.