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Issues & People Oasis Podcasts Pediatric Dentistry Professional Issues

Lift the Lip: Uncovering the dangers of early childhood caries

Olva's picPodcast Icon SmallChiraz Guessaier, CDA Oasis Manager, spoke with Dr. Olva Odlum, senior scholar in the Department of Preventive Dentistry at the University of Manitoba, about the issue of extreme early childhood caries and their link to systemic health.




Listen to the audio interview


Interview Highlights

  • The number of children between the ages of 2 and 5 presenting in hospitals every year with obvious signs of malnutrition is staggering. These are children with extreme early childhood caries.
  • It is important for Canadian dentists to know about this issue because current research shows that broken and abscessed teeth in very young children may very well be accompanied by systemic and possibly developmental problems.
  • CDA should collect data on these children and review the related existing programs that deal with this issue.

Read the Discussions Paper: Early childhood caries: is this a simple dental problem?

The paper includes uncited references. Dr. Odlum has kindly accepted to provide these references upon request. 


Dr. Olva Odlum is originally from Wales. She graduated in Dentistry from the Royal Dental Hospital in London, England. After the completion of internships in Oral Surgery and later pedodontics, she was appointed Head of the new Community Dentistry program at the University of Manitoba (1975 -1999). Her clinical practice focused on medically compromised patients in the Winnipeg Health Science Centre.

She retired from academia and was appointed as a Clinical Associate at the National Research Council’s Biodiagnostic Unit .

More recently, she has worked as a part-time clinician for Manitoba’s Aboriginal communities.



  1. Euan Swan October 14, 2014

    The terms early childhood caries (ECC) and severe early childhood caries (S-ECC)are well established. Am I right in thinking “extreme” early childhood caries is equivalent to S-ECC?

    1. Terry Farquhar October 21, 2014

      AAPD: “In children younger than three years of age, any sign of smooth-surface caries is indicative of severe early childhood caries (S-ECC). From ages three through five, one or more cavitated, missing (due to caries), or filled smooth surfaces in primary maxillary anterior teeth or a decayed, missing, or filled score of greater than or equal to four (age 3), greater than or equal to five (age 4), or greater than or equal to six (age 5) surfaces also constitutes S-ECC.” In this case, “Extreme” ECC is, as you would imagine, far more severe than this definition would suggest, and in many cases involve 20/20 teeth to the point where many, if not all, require restoration and/or extraction. This is not a recognized definition, however, common sense prevails here, I think.

  2. gerald labine October 15, 2014

    I have worked in the north and and have practiced in the south. I think early childhood caries is a sign of child abuse, and malnutrition. Why are dentists afraid to make a judgement call.
    I have called the social services and the results have been very positive.


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