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Constipation and Dental Caries: An Uncomfortable Link

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What’s worse than kids experiencing constipation? Dental caries to go along with it!

According to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 17% to 40% of children experience constipation. From sugar syrup to juice to dried fruit and fiber gummies, home remedies have been linked to dental caries. So, just make sure kids are brushing their teeth after consuming home remedies and no problem, right? As it turns out, brushing twice a day and flossing once a day may not be sufficient to overcome the high amounts of sugar some children are consuming to treat chronic constipation.   

In 2013, the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition and the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition updated their guidelines for the treatment of constipation. The guidelines now state that scientific evidence does not support the use of fiber supplements, probiotics, extra fluid intake, increased physical activity, behavior therapy, or biofeedback for the treatment of constipation in children.

What’s an uncomfortable kid to do? Well now the most effective and safest pharmacologic treatment is polyethylene glycol (PEG). If PEG is not available, lactulose is recommended. Both of these alternative remedies are less likely to lead to dental caries.

If a cariogenic remedy must be used, however, the experts advise that the child should have a dental home. A common electronic health record between physicians and dentists to coordinate care for children is ideal. Of course, educating families on the fact that cariogenic foods, particularly carbohydrates, may increase the risk of dental caries can also be helpful for prevention. 

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