Researchers share new ways to prevent child tooth decay

Around 2,700 Victorian children aged 0-­6 years are hospitalised each year for preventable dental conditions—most of them requiring treatment of dental decay under general anaesthetic.

This is among the findings presented at The Early Childhood Oral Health Research Symposium held in Melbourne last month where dentists and scientists discussed the latest research on oral health in young children, and innovations in prevention and treatment.

The symposium was presented by the University of Melbourne and the Oral Health CRC.

Presentations came from a range of fields including molecular science, genetics, paediatric dentistry, tele-medicine and epidemiology.

Professor Eric Reynolds, CEO of the Oral Health CRC, said most oral disease in young children is preventable.

“We need to continue investigating new ways of reducing oral disease for this group, using the latest scientific evidence to inform prevention and education programs, clinical practices and the development of new treatments,” he said.

Professor Reynolds presented on the development and testing of new products for the prevention and early treatment of decay in children. His team is currently investigating the use of compounds that act as prebiotics in the mouth, encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria that keep disease-­causing bacteria in balance.

Another speaker, microbiologist Professor Stuart Dashper, is part of a team working on a long-term research project, VicGen, that has tracked the bacterial composition of children’s saliva from the age of one month to five years. The study has found that infants who do not develop a healthy mix of oral bacteria (microbiome) are more susceptible to decay in three or four years’ time.

“We found a correlation between the number of bacterial species in an infant’s saliva and advanced dental decay by the time that child is five,” Professor Dashper said.

“We are continuing research to get a better understanding of how communities of oral bacteria develop in young children and hope to soon be able to use these biomarkers to help identify children at risk of dental disease.”

Some of the speakers at the event have made their presentations available. You can access these on the Oral Health CRC website.

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