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News Asia Pacific

New findings from a Singaporean study suggest that infants with atopic dermatitis might be at a higher risk of developing caries as toddlers. (Photograph: Luca Lorenzelli/Shutterstock)
0 Comments Feb 1, 2017 | News Asia Pacific

Infants with atopic dermatitis have higher risk of caries later in life

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SINGAPORE: New research from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research has suggested a link between two common childhood diseases: atopic dermatitis and dental caries. In the study, infants who had symptoms of the skin condition and were sensitive to common allergens were three times more likely to develop tooth decay at 2 and 3 years of age compared with infants without the skin inflammation.

Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema, is a chronic, relapsing form of inflammatory skin disease that is characterised by symptoms such as itchy, red, swollen or cracked skin and a rash. Over the last years, the condition has been on the rise and affects approximately 15–30 per cent of children in developed countries today. As for dental caries, a 2009 NUS Faculty of Dentistry study found that four in ten preschool children in Singapore suffered from some form.

In the current study, which was part of the Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes programme, the researchers interviewed about 500 parents during their child’s first year, at three, six and 12 months, respectively, to identify infants with eczema. Those children whose mothers reported them as having the skin condition were given skin prick testing to assess their sensitivity to common allergens.

The results showed that infants who had eczema and were positive to common allergens were 3.29 times and 3.09 times more likely to experience caries when they were 2 and 3 years of age, respectively, compared with infants without the dermatitis.

“Our latest findings will give parents and caregivers of babies with eczema early warning of increased risk of developing tooth decay in toddlers,” NUS researcher Dr Stephen Hsu told the Strait Times. “Regular dental check-ups can then be conducted to help minimise the incidence of tooth decay in these children.”

According to the research team, it is the first time a link between both conditions has been discovered. A possible mechanism behind the connection could be structural defects that occur during tissue development in the uterus. However, in order to confirm the underlying biological mechanism of the relationship, the researchers are now conducting further genetic analyses.

The study, titled “Atopic dermatitis and early childhood caries: Results of the GUSTO study”, was published online on 22 January in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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