A timely reminder

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.”

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1 Comment

  1. Tooth decay in small children continues unabated because one of the main factors in the transmission of this disease is not addressed by dental health professionals. That is the vertical transmission of the infection from people who interact with the child – In more than 30% of cases this is the mother.
    Fixing the child’s oral health and then returning the child to the same environment that caused the disease only continues the cycle. In these cases the source of the primary infection should be found and treated. Health professionals constantly address the sugar factor which by itself does not solve the problem.

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