November 27, 2022

Has Your Child Gotten Their Four?

Health & Wellness

Despite improvements in oral health outcomes for Oregonian children over the past 9 years, oral disease still remains a major public health issue. Oral disease can not only affect the quality of life of a child, but also has social and economic consequences into adulthood.

Early Childhood Caries

Oral disease in very young children is a major determinant of the quality of their overall health. In addition to infection, pain, and a high risk of developing tooth decay in permanent teeth, childhood oral disease is directly linked to a child’s ability to concentrate, impaired language development, low self-esteem, and other critical developmental issues.

Early childhood caries (ECC, also known as tooth decay) is the most common chronic disease in children, affecting five times more children than asthma. Over 52% of 1st graders in Oregon have had a cavity, and 34% currently have untreated cavities.

Priority Populations

Cavity rates among 6- to 9-year-old children in 2012 were generally at or above 50% throughout the state of Oregon. Children from low income families have an increased risk, with low-income minority children at an even higher risk.


Early childhood caries is transmissible, preventable, and treatable. By using simple tools, like fluoride varnish, we can improve overall health of young children.

Five Things Every Parent Should Know About Fluoride Varnish

  • Tooth decay hurts and can make it hard for children to eat, speak, sleep and learn.
  • Using fluoride is a safe way to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride varnish is a protective coating of fluoride that is painted onto the teeth. It goes on quickly and doesn’t hurt. It can even heal early tooth decay!
  • All children and adults who are at risk for tooth decay should get fluoride varnish.
  • You can get fluoride varnish during any visit to your doctor or dentist.
  • Fluoride varnish works best if you get it 2 to 4 times a year.

After fluoride varnish treatment

Keep the varnish on the teeth as long as possible:

  • Offer your child soft foods for the rest of the day
  • Do not brush or floss teeth until the next day.

The Stages of Tooth Decay

Early childhood cavities happen when liquids that contain sugar are left in a baby’s mouth for a long time. Even breast milk and formula contain sugar.

Tooth decay is almost 100% preventable.

  • Brush and floss every day.
  • Use fluoride (toothpaste, varnish, water).
  • Choose healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables and cheese.
  • See a dentist regularly.

Oregon's First Tooth Program

To help make dental care more accessible to our communities, Orchid Health has partnered with The Oregon Oral Health First Tooth program. The goal of First Tooth is to reduce early childhood caries in Oregon.

In Oregon, nearly two-thirds of rural children have cavities.

Our staff is trained and certified through Oregon's First Tooth program to provide an oral health exam and fluoride treatment during a well-child check. The goal of First Tooth is to reduce early childhood caries in Oregon by training medical and dental providers to implement preventive oral health services for infants and toddlers ages three and under.

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