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Aussie children’s teeth are getting worse

23 August 2011

Researchers from Adelaide University say that Australian children have terrible teeth and their oral health is getting worse, despite billions of dollars being spent on fixing the problem.

Adelaide University have been awarded $1.3 million to study why the system is failing Australia’s children.

Professor John Spencer from the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health will lead the research over the next four years.

“Despite a substantial level of resources, approximately $1 billion dollars annually being directed to dental services for children in Australia in the last decade, their oral health is still a major public health problem,” Professor Spencer says.

“After several decades of improvement, child oral health has worsened and inequalities have widened.”

In 2006 nearly 27,000 children 8114 of whom were pre-schoolers – were admitted to hospital for dental work. Latest statistics show that dental restorations and extractions are the most common reason for hospital admissions among Australian children under 14 years old.

All State and Territory public dental authorities will partner in the research project and a further $1.7 million will be committed, making the total funding for the study $3 million.

“In this study we will be looking at how dental services for our children are organised and delivered, comparing the use of private dentists and school dental services and the outcomes for child oral health,” Prof Spencer said.

When a child requires a general anaesthetic, the most common reason is due of dental decay. Perhaps the increase in bottled water and the lack of supervision of a child’s diet due to the busy lives of parents has contributed to this problem. It certainly appears that low-fluoride toothpastes are not helping.

Dental decay is preventable but it requires moderation in the amount of sugars that a child intakes. In toddlers it can be because of bottle decay where the child is given milk in a bottle to get them to sleep. In young children, it is not just soft drinks that can be the problem as all juices will have natural sugars that can be used by bacteria to create acids. Intake of sugary between-meal products is the most likely cause of the decay as it reduces the pH in the mouth making the oral environment conducive for bacterial acid production and making teeth susceptible to acid attack.

In cases where we know that a child has a high risk of tooth decay, we must to be very proactive in preventing further decay. Adult toothpastes or even high fluoride pastes may be required. Tooth Mousse can help reduce a child’s susceptibility and there are special mouth rinses to increase the pH of the mouth. Please have a good look at your child’s teeth when you next brush them and if you notice any dark areas on the teeth or there is anything amiss, please give us a call.