Champaign, Ill. & Lubbock, Texas, USA: U.S. researchers have found evidence of bacteria associated with early childhood caries in the saliva of infants with no teeth. Their findings suggest that infection with bacteria like Streptococcus mutans in the oral cavity occurs earlier in the development of children than previously thought.
In a comparative analysis using DNA sequencing methods, scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and two research institutes in Lubbock in Texas identified hundreds of bacteria species in saliva taken from infants whose teeth were still erupting, including those that are involved in the formation of biofilm and ECC. The disease, which usually occurs in primary teeth between birth and six years of age, has turned out to be one of the most prevalent infectious diseases in U.S. children in recent years. According to National Institutes of Health figures, 42 per cent of children between the ages of 2 and 11 have had decay in their primary teeth.
The results from the study, proving that infants are infected with oral pathogens even before they develop primary teeth, could mean new strategies for preventing caries in children, the researchers said.
“We want to characterize the microbiological evolution that occurs in the oral cavity between birth and tooth eruption, as teeth erupt, and as dietary changes occur such as breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, liquid to solid food, and changes in nutrient profile,” said Kelly Swanson, lead researcher and Associate Professor of Animal and Nutritional Sciences.
Pediatric dentistry experts currently recommend stopping bottle-feeding infants at 14 months and regularly cleaning gums with a cloth or special toothbrush.