Dental researchers are combining the ease of digital photography with the Internet to develop a new and inexpensive way to screen for a common childhood oral disease that predominantly plagues America's inner city toddlers early childhood dental caries (ECC), or as it is commonly called, "baby bottle tooth decay." The cavities are caused by prolonged exposure to sweetened juices, often from sleeping with a bottle, and tend to be overlooked by parents until the pain becomes so severe, and the teeth so decayed, that the only option for these toddlers often under the age of four is sedation and extraction.
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 st
Contact: Germaine Reinhardt
University of Rochester Medical Center