Campaign to Combat Decay in Young Australians

Campaign to Combat Decay in Young Australians

Australian children are being hospitalised and undergoing dental extractions as a result of dental decay in their primary teeth. The Australian Dental Association (ADA) says that, with appropriate oral hygiene and dietary habits, and early access to dental care, painful and costly hospitalisations could be avoided.

The most common reason for children under 15 years of age to undergo general anaesthesia in hospital in Australia was for dental extractions and restorations. Dental decay in young children can have a significant impact on a child's overall health, and is linked to symptoms such as pain, infection, abscesses, gastrointestinal disorders, malnutrition and failure to thrive due to feeding difficulties.

To raise awareness about the issue of Early Childhood Caries (ECCs), the ADA has launched a community health initiative to assist parents and carers of babies and toddlers with tips and guidelines on preventative oral healthcare.

Chairman of the Australian Dental Association's (ADA) Oral Health Committee, Dr Peter Alldritt, says that the presentation of dental decay in toddlers and young children is especially concerning. 'Dental decay causes serious problems for a child's general development, and it remains a big issue. Decay is largely caused by what and how often a young child eats. If you add poor oral hygiene habits such as not brushing teeth twice a day, then a young child has a real risk of painful dental decay. Treating toddlers for advanced dental decay can be extremely traumatic for the child and costly for parents", says Dr Alldritt.

A recent report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that almost 50% of children aged 5-6 years had a history of dental decay in their primary teeth and 40% had untreated dental decay. Early childhood dental decay is still a prevalent issue in Australia - the average Australian child has two decayed, missing and filled teeth.

The AIHW has also reported that an increasing number of children only brushed their teeth once a day as opposed to the recommended twice a day and the frequency of brushing diminished with age. Dental decay is a preventable disease, so the importance of oral healthcare in babies and toddlers is just as important as caring for adult teeth.

'Children who are taught good oral hygiene habits early on are more likely to maintain healthy teeth during their adulthood. Dental decay is a largely preventable disease and the prevalence of dental decay in young children's teeth is still a serious matter," says Dr Alldritt. In an effort to raise awareness about the importance of oral healthcare in babies and toddlers, the ADA will post new fact sheets on their website, which will include tips on looking after children's first teeth, guidelines on when and how to start cleaning a child's teeth and gums, first aid advice for a dental injury and dietary recommendations for healthy teeth for life.

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