This Policy Statement was retired January 2015.
Early childhood dental caries has been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be perhaps the most prevalent infectious disease of our nation’s children. Early childhood dental caries occurs in all racial and socioeconomic groups; however, it tends to be more prevalent in low-income children, in whom it occurs in epidemic proportions. Dental caries results from an overgrowth of specific organisms that are a part of normally occurring human flora. Human dental flora is site specific, and an infant is not colonized until the eruption of the primary dentition at approximately 6 to 30 months of age. The most likely source of inoculation of an infant’s dental flora is the mother or another intimate care provider, through shared utensils, etc. Decreasing the level of cariogenic organisms in the mother’s dental flora at the time of colonization can significantly impact the child’s predisposition to caries. To prevent caries in children, high-risk individuals must be identified at an early age (preferably high-risk mothers during prenatal care), and aggressive strategies should be adopted, including anticipatory guidance, behavior modifications (oral hygiene and feeding practices), and establishment of a dental home by 1 year of age for children deemed at risk.