Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV) is rolling out a plan across the state to reduce poor oral health in children.
Among other things, the plan aims to educate parents that by sharing oral bacteria with infants, they can unknowingly cause decay in their baby’s teeth.
Many parents are unaware that sharing dummies and utensils or blowing on their children’s food can lead to tooth decay.
Concerns that parents lack knowledge about dental health are not unfounded. Public dental clinics have found that two-thirds of pregnant patients have untreated decay.
According to DHSV, 1,050 children aged 10 or younger underwent general anaesthetic for dental treatment in Victoria’s public health system during the 2014/15 financial year. It is reasonable to assume that virtually all of these were being treated for tooth decay.
DHSV’s strategy for the 2016–2021 period aims to connect pregnant patients with support services that can help them improve their own oral health through education.
“If the mother’s got active dental decay in their mouth, they’re going to have higher levels of the bacteria Streptoccus mutans, and they pass that along to the child,” DHSV chief oral health adviser Dr Paula Bacchia told the Herald Sun. “Eventually everyone gets a [sic] bacteria, it gets passed on.”
“General anaesthetic is a really expensive way to do it, but it’s also significant for the child,” she said. “It comes with the risk of having an op for an entirely preventable disease.”
DHSV is looking to the future, said CEO Dr Deborah Cole, and will be taking a long-term approach to improve the dental health of Victorians.
“The backlog of untreated dental disease in adults and low levels of oral health literacy cannot be resolved with short-term and disjointed programs. The current system is ineffective for those most at risk,” said Dr Cole.
“Commonwealth funding is only guaranteed for short periods of time which doesn’t support long-term planning.
“We believe that every Victorian, no matter where they live or what they earn, should be able to live free from the pain, suffering and social stigma associated with poor oral health.”