UNC-CH Faculty Hope To Cut Tooth Decay In State's Youngest Children

February 18, 1999

CHAPEL HILL -- In an effort believed unique in the United States, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill dentistry and public health experts are teaming with state dental health staff to try to cut tooth decay among the state's youngest children.

UNC-CH faculty are starting a project in nine western N.C. counties that will involve painting fluoride varnish on the teeth of children as young as 9 months. Those counties are Avery, Burke, Cherokee, Graham, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford and Yancey. Others likely will follow.

"Dental health of North Carolina children has, in general, improved dramatically over the last three decades," said Dr. James W. Bawden, Alumni Distinguished professor of pediatric dentistry. "However, 20 to 25 percent of young children in the state still suffer from severe dental decay."

Inappropriate and prolonged use of nursing bottles causes some of the disease, said Bawden, former UNC-CH dentistry dean. The rest is caused by poor diet and oral hygiene and by a lack of fluoride in local water supplies.

"By age 2 or 3, most of these children have suffered considerable pain and often have swelling and fever from dental infections," he said. "They have several teeth that need to be extracted and require extensive treatment to retain the rest of their teeth. Because of their young age, few general dentists can treat these children, and they are referred to pediatric dentists who have the training and experience to do so."

Because of an acute shortage of pediatric dentists in most of North Carolina and other factors, access to care for children with early, severe tooth decay remains a significant problem, Bawden said.

"Fluoride varnish is effective in reducing dental decay and has recently become available in the United States," he said. "The varnish can be applied easily and safely to the teeth of infants and young children and provides a new preventive tool to help control dental decay."

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services employees will help with the project, which is chiefly funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission. The N.C. Partnership for Children, also known as Smart Start, will administer it.

Drs. R. Gary Rozier, professor of health policy and administration, William F. Vann, professor of pediatric dentistry, and Bawden are working with N.C. dental health section staffers to design and implement the program.

"The project will provide valuable experience in conducting such an intervention and will allow careful evaluation of the extent to which decay is reduced in the target group of children," Bawden said. "It is the first project of its type in the United States designed to reach such young children with a decay preventive measure. We expect that implementing the program statewide would achieve a significant improvement in the dental health of North Carolina children."

Dental hygienists will apply the fluoride varnish every six months until the children reach age 3, he said. The North Carolina program should begin in early summer.

Funding is being sought to expand the effort to all 100 counties. Comparable fluoride varnish programs have been in operation in Europe for about 25 years.
Note: Bawden can be reached at 919-966-1165, Rozier at 919-966-7388 and Vann at 919-966-2739.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Related Fluoride Articles from Brightsurf:

A salt solution toward better bioelectronics
A water-stable dopant enhances and stabilizes the performance of electron-transporting organic electrochemical transistors.

Antiferromagnetic fluoride nanocrystals
Recently, researchers from Peking University, Shenzhen University and National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) report that the altered passivation of specified facets can direct the synthesis of fluoride nanocrystals into dimension-controlled products in a colloidal approach.

To make or to break: Novel reversible technique produces acyl fluoride using rare metal
Acyl fluorides are organic compounds that contain a fluorine atom in their structure.

Study reveals how too much fluoride causes defects in tooth enamel
Exposing teeth to excessive fluoride alters calcium signaling, mitochondrial function, and gene expression in the cells forming tooth enamel -- a novel explanation for how dental fluorosis, a condition caused by overexposure to fluoride during childhood, arises.

Simple test could prevent fluoride-related disease
Northwestern University synthetic biologists developed a simple, inexpensive new test that can detect dangerous levels of fluoride in drinking water.

New UW study questions value of fluoride varnish
A new study by 2 University of Washington researchers and their colleagues questions the cost-effectiveness of fluoride varnish for preschoolers and calls its anti-cavity effects 'modest and uncertain' in this age group.

Stretchy plastic electrolytes could enable new lithium-ion battery design
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a promising new cathode and electrolyte system that replaces expensive metals and traditional liquid electrolyte with lower cost transition metal fluorides and a solid polymer electrolyte.

Lithium fluoride crystals 'see' heavy ions with high energies
Lithium fluoride crystals have recently been used to register the tracks of nuclear particles.

Study examines maternal exposure to fluoride in pregnancy, kids' IQ scores
An observational study of 601 mother-child pairs from six cities in Canada hints at an apparent association between maternal exposure to fluoride during pregnancy and lower IQ scores measured in children ages 3 to 4.

Fluoride may diminish kidney and liver function in adolescents, study suggests
luoride exposure may lead to a reduction in kidney and liver function among adolescents, according to a study published by Mount Sinai researchers in Environment International in August.

Read More: Fluoride News and Fluoride Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.