Written by Valerie J Bluemel, EPDH, IBCLC

Dental image: A dentist’s chair.

Dental image: Child's mouth with cavities.

Children should be playing, learning and having fun, but so often they are in pain due to a preventable childhood disease called CAVITIES or tooth decay. This is when the outer layer of the tooth, called enamel, changes because of bacteria or germs that change the surface from hard to soft. Enamel is the hardest surface of the body, so it should be a surprise that it would get soft enough to cause a cavity.  Many people think that getting holes in our teeth is just a part of being human, but we now know that cavities can be prevented.


Almost 50%, or half of all children will get a cavity before kindergarten and 90% of head start children are affected. This a big problem, with 51 million school hours lost each year to dental problems in children. There are a few different causes of tooth decay. The germs that cause tooth decay could be given to the child from the caretaker or mother before teeth have even popped through the gums! These types of germs that cause cavities are now living in the mouth, and choosing to eat lots of sugar or processed foods can hurt your mouth. Other causes are not brushing children’s teeth in the morning and at night, not seeing a dentist (by the age of 1 year) and drinking juice, soda, milk, or formula from a bottle. The good news is: eating foods like fresh fruits & vegetables, meat, dairy and fats, and with good brushing habits, and early and regular visits to the dentist, children can keep cavities away!

Dental image: Child's mouth with cavities.

The Surgeon General has a report called Oral Health in America, written in 2000. The main points are that our teeth are very important to our overall health. Our teeth affect all the parts of the mouth, including the jaws, the soft portions like our lips, cheeks, tongue, gums, and nerves & blood vessels. The tissues of the mouth and face work together for us to speak, eat, taste, swallow, smile, frown, drink, and kiss. These tissues also provide protection against bacteria, viruses and fungi infections, so we can see how important keeping our teeth healthy is to our whole body.

Children rely on adults to give them the care and help they deserve. Children are developing skills, coordination and habits that will keep their teeth healthy. We can model good brushing habits and eating habits. This can also reduce childhood obesity and the likelihood of developing diabetes as an adult. Fortunately, in Oregon all children are able to get dental insurance to be able to get dental care. Let’s help the children in Oregon to have healthy smiles and avoid tooth decay.





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2. Lavigne, Valerie, DC, IBCLC, RLC. “Breastfeeding and Dental Caries Looking at the Evidence.” Clinical Lactation 4.1 (2013): 12-16. Web. 1 June 2014.

3. Edelstein, Burton L., DDS, MPH. “Columbia Commentary: Breastfeeding and Tooth Decay, a Complex Issue.” Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, 23 Apr. 2012. Web. 1 Aug. 2014.