Sometimes it is the simple idea that makes a big difference… Dental researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center are using digital photography with the internet for early detection of “baby bottle tooth decay”. This early childhood dental caries (ECC) oral disease is the development of cavities that are caused by prolonged exposure to sweetened juices, “often from sleeping with a bottle, and tend to be overlooked by parents until pain becomes so severe.” Here’s more from the university’s site:
A specially outfitted digital camera is used to take photos of children’s teeth by a child care center health assistant. The photos are then sent electronically across town to pediatric dentists, who review the files in batches, identifying those toddlers with ECC. Dentists believe that this new screening system is the first of its kind, and will pave the way for earlier identification of the cavities before they become a painful problem for young toddlers — and a costly one for states across the country footing the bill for Medicaid. Estimates in the community of Rochester alone put treatment of ECC at $1 million annually, a tab picked up almost exclusively by Medicaid.
In a recent study published in the June issue of the Journal of Telemedicine & Telecare, University of Rochester Medical Center dentists documented how the new system showed that nearly 40 percent of 162 toddlers were suffering from baby bottle tooth decay. Most averaged about two cavities, but one child had as many as 20 decayed teeth.
“We have identified a very simple, cost-effective method to screen for this common childhood disease before it becomes a much larger problem,” said Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski, D.D.S., assistant professor of Dentistry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and author of the study. “By catching ECC at its earliest stage, we will effectively save the patient and parent toothache and heartache, decrease use of emergency room services, and increase the usage of dentists by this underserved population.”
Typically found in children aged five and under, the practice of putting a baby to bed with a bottle, which the baby can suck on for hours, is the major cause of ECC. The sugary liquid flows over the baby’s upper front teeth and dissolves the enamel, causing decay that can lead to infection and cavities. ECC is rampant in minority communities, where access to dental care is uncommon. National estimates put up to 25 percent of minority children aged 1-5 suffering with the painful and often disfiguring condition.