February 7-14 is Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) Awareness Week.

Dental health and congenital heart disease (CHD)

What does congenital heart defect affect?

CHDs are present at birth and can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and the way it works. They can affect how blood flows through the heart and out to the rest of the body. CHDs can vary from mild (such as a small hole in the heart) to severe (such as missing or poorly formed parts of the heart).

Dental disease, such as dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontal (gum) disease, are two of the most common types of childhood disease. When left untreated, periodontal disease can affect the bone and can become complicated by tooth abscesses, gum infection (gingivitis) and infective endocarditis.

Even in healthy children, tooth decay and gum disease can cause pain, make eating difficult and affect growth and nutrition. It can also impact self-esteem and social interactions.

 Study shows that almost half of children with CHD who presented for dental consultation had severe early childhood caries.

When a child with congenital heart disease (CHD) also has dental disease, they are at a higher risk of needing invasive dental treatments and contracting infective endocarditis.

Why are children with CHD more prone to dental disease?

. CHD can interfere with tooth enamel formation, resulting in tooth deterioration and dental caries. This makes tooth restoration more difficult.

. Children with CHD have higher incidents of gastroesophageal reflux (GORD). This causes teeth to erode because they are frequently exposed to stomach acid.

. Children with CHD may require a high caloric diet, including sweet foods and medications.

. Certain medicines used to treat CHD can cause the mouth to become dry (xerostomia). The lack of saliva can make dental disease more likely to occur.

. Having a child with a complex health condition, like CHD, can be overwhelming and dental health may not be a priority.

. Children with CHD may need to be sedated/have an anaesthetic.

Steps for preventing dental disease:

  • Make sure to start brushing your child’s teeth twice a day as soon as they come through.
  • Help your child with brushing their teeth until they are 8-10 years of age, encouraging and teaching them each time.
  • Use the right toothbrush and toothpaste:use a soft brush with a small head for children under six years of age.
  • use a low fluoride junior toothpaste replace toothbrushes every three months.
  • Floss daily to help clean in between their teeth.
  • Limit sugary foods and drinks, as well as those that are high in acid. 
  • Sugars feed the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
  • Visit the dentist for check-ups every 6-9 months.
https://www.ada.org.au/Your-Dental-Health/Children-0-11
https://jcda.ca/sites/default/files/i7_0.pdf
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12903-018-0495-5
https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Dental_care https://www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au

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