You’ve undoubtedly come to notice the frequency at which your child patients experience dental caries.
No, your practice isn’t some statistical aberration. According to a case-control study called, “Impact Of Inhaler Use On Dental Caries In Asthma Pediatrics Patients” 90% of schoolchildren aged 5-17 years in America have dental caries.
The use of inhalers is not solely affecting youth in America. The World Health Organization (WHO) cites that 60%-90% of children in some Asian and Latin American countries are also at risk of dental caries due to inhaler use.
While tooth decay is a risk for all children, getting dental caries seems to be likelier for those with asthma.
The Connection Between Dental Caries and Asthma
Pediatric patients (10-15% male, 7-10% female) are most frequently afflicted with the chronic inflammatory airway disorder known as asthma.
The recent case study discusses how suffering from asthma makes your younger patients more vulnerable to dental caries. This issue stems from these children having different biological mechanisms—such as changes in salivary composition.
Biological changes occur due to sources within the body and external factors, namely, administering inhaled drugs. Such treatments alter both the quality and quantity of saliva.
Furthermore, inhalers possess sugar as a substrate for cariogenic bacteria. Through a series of biological processes, there’s a reduction in salivary secretion and protein synthesis.
Something else to consider is that when your child patients with asthma use their inhalers, only 10-20% of the drug reaches their lower airways. The remainder of the substance rests at the oropharynx and upper airways level. This turns the treatment into a substrate for cariogenic bacteria that alters the oral pH.
With all this being said, the direct relationship between inhaler treatment-duration and dental caries' prevalence should be no surprise.
Can You Help Prevent Dental Caries?
Before we delve deep into preventative measures for dental caries, there's one thing that's worth celebrating. The addition of fluoride to drinking water has reduced the amount of decay in children’s teeth by 18-40%.
While that statistic is worth a subdued victory dance, the battle against dental caries still rages on. The numbers remain exceptionally high, and you want to ensure that your patients experience the best possible dental health outcomes.
Communication is critical to help craft a proactive plan to avoid this issue. At the very least, it can mitigate how often your child patients experience dental caries.
What Preventative Measures Against Dental Caries Can You Teach to Your Patients?
As dental professionals, it's all too easy to assume your patients have the base-level knowledge to maintain sound oral health.
Unfortunately, children deal with many factors that can lead to decaying teeth, such as living in lower-income households – where the stresses go beyond exceptional oral hygiene.
When a child has asthma, it then becomes even more pivotal to instill sound oral hygiene habits. These patients are not only dealing with the everyday obstacles of being a child, but also struggle with the pitfalls of being asthmatic.
It’s immeasurably valuable for you to outline the following list of proactive measures to prevent dental caries:
First and foremost, brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste is highly beneficial. This initial effort can be bolstered by flossing or using interdental cleaner between the teeth.
Brushing and flossing alone isn’t necessarily a 100% failproof form of dental caries-prevention. Your child patients can’t be eating diets ridden with sugar and sodium. Instead, they require balanced, nutritious meals.
On top of that, regular dental-hygiene maintenance at your practice is a must—especially for your patients with asthma. Implement a pre-planned schedule for cleanings and oral examinations.
You should also offer insights about strengthening their teeth with supplemental fluoride. Beyond that, you can talk to them about protecting chewing surfaces with dental sealants.
In short, your patients with asthma require a consistent dental regimen, that bolsters their hygiene for the long haul.
Keeping Your Dental Patients with Asthma Safe
Dental caries isn't necessarily the end of the world for your patients. However, it’s a minor inconvenience that can quickly turn into a far bigger problem if left untreated. An abundance of adverse health consequences and financial burdens are associated when this kind of tooth decay persists.
Your patients with asthma are more at risk, especially as they continue to use inhalers. Therefore, you must take extra care to offer preventative measures to better their quality of life.