Native American and Canadian Indigenous children are experiencing a health crisis of dental disease, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which is urging pediatricians to address these problems.
Children in these communities are five times more likely than the general population of children in the United States to have dental disease, according to a 2014 Indian Health Service survey, and they have five times as many decayed or filled teeth, with an average of 5.8 in children between the ages of 2 and 5.
A new AAP policy statement, “Early Childhood Caries in Indigenous Communities,” updates the organization’s 2011 recommendations, offering treatment guidance and urgency to address this dental health crisis, the AAP said.
In many Indigenous communities, the AAP said, dental disease can be found in 90% of children between the ages of 3 and 5, requiring seven times as much oral surgery among children from communities with a high proportion of Indigenous peoples, the AAP said.
In remote Indigenous regions of Canada, dental surgery rates are 15 times higher than average, and 73% of Alaska Native children have undergone dental surgery, which is at least 50 times above average, the AAP said.
Reasons for these issues include the oral microbiome, diet, poverty, a lack of access to community fluoridated water, a smaller number of dentists, and early eruption of teeth among Indigenous children.
The policy urges early preventive effort before the age of 2, connecting each child in these communities to a dentist by their first birthday, and new preventions and treatments such as silver diamine fluoride and tooth sealants. Native American parents also are urged to start brushing their babies’ teeth as soon as they emerge.