Half the number of six-year-olds presenting to public dental clinics have experienced tooth decay according to data from Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV).
Worse, around 4,500 Victorian children aged 0-14 years are hospitalised due to dental conditions.
It is statistics such as these which—in the lead-up to Easter, a time when many of us over-indulge in chocolate and sugary sweets—have prompted DHSV to encourage families to think twice about their sugar consumption.
Dr Sophie Beaumont, a DHSV dentist based at the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne, said 50 per cent of all children have experienced some tooth decay by age 12, and the highest rates of disease occur in disadvantaged populations.
Dental disease accounts for more than 63,000 hospital presentations every year in Australia (behind kidney infection and gastroenteritis), the third highest cause for preventable hospital admissions,” she said.
“Every year in Victoria more than 1,300 children undergo a general anaesthetic at the Dental Hospital for dental treatment. Most of this dental disease is preventable.”
Around half that number are very young preschool-aged children. Last financial year, the Dental Hospital had 53 preschool-aged children, all of whom had at least half of their baby teeth extracted (some had all their teeth extracted).
“Good oral hygiene, including effective toothbrushing with a fluoride toothpaste, is only a part of the solution. Understanding healthy dietary factors is the most important part of the puzzle,” Dr Beaumont said, adding that tooth decay is “the silent epidemic in children.
“Many foods and drinks are very high in added sugars; often these are hidden sugars in foods and drinks that are marketed as ‘healthy’ or important to achieve good outcomes such as with sports drinks.
“Everyone knows those little Easter eggs are loaded with sugar, but it’s the not so obvious items that can be easily missed. The Easter period is a good reminder to get to the dentist and avoid long-term pain.”