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Dr Neil Peppitt speaks to News Corp on soaring numbers of NSW kids being hospitalised for tooth decay

5 August 2019
The Daily Telegraph
By Danielle Le Messurier  

More school-aged children than ever before are being hospitalised for avoidable dental conditions with NSW in the grips of a tooth decay crisis.

Alarming new NSW Health data shows the number of children aged 5-14 undergoing hospital treatment for “dental caries” has more than doubled from 2093 cases in 2001-02 to 4430 in 2017-18.

And more children of that age were hospitalised for dental issues than any other “potentially preventable” health condition last year with teeth troubles trumping asthma, epilepsy and ear, nose and throat infections.

There were 2667 youngsters who needed hospital treatment for asthma compared to an astonishing 5256 for dental conditions, which accounted for almost 40 per cent of all potentially preventable hospitalisations in school-aged kids in 2017-18.

In many of these cases, children had to have rotting teeth removed under general anaesthetic with tooth decay significantly outstripping other oral issues such as injury, developmental disorders or infections.

Health experts are “hugely concerned” about the latest figures which they say are the result of kids consuming far too much sugar in their diet.

“Kids aren’t drinking as much tap water as they should — the state is well fluoridated … (but there are) too many sugary drinks or alternatives to tap water,” said Australian Dental Association NSW Dr Neil Peppitt.

He also said a lack of brushing and parental reinforcement around the importance of oral health were to blame for dental caries, which is avoidable in “90 per cent” of cases.

“Parents need to take some responsibility too — they have to see what goes into the children’s lunch box and understand the sugar levels and sometimes that’s complex and hard,” Dr Peppitt said

By ages 7-8, almost one in 10 children or 7.5 per cent have missing teeth due to caries, according to a recent Australian of Institute of Health and Welfare report.

It also showed costs in relation to dental services are skyrocketing — $10.2 billion was spent in 2016-17, up from $6.6 billion in 2006—07.

Total expenditure on dental services increased every year from 2006-07 to 2016-17 at an annual growth rate of 4.4 per cent.

Australian Medical Association NSW president Dr Kean Seng-Lim said it was clear a higher level of public awareness was needed through improved food labelling and packaging.

“I am hugely concerned this is such a big problem as we know that dental health is a very important part of overall health and especially when we consider this is a condition which is entirely preventable,” he said.

“As a society we should be doing everything within our means to prevent this from happening and that should also include looking at taxes on sugary sweetened beverages.”

Clovelly mum Clementine Jones, 42, makes her children visit the dentist twice a year for check-ups.
“Dental health is really important,” she said.

“My parents always said once they’re gone, they’re gone, they never grow back.”

But while the number of school-aged kids with tooth decay is soaring, it is falling in younger children.

The number of kids aged 0-4 with dental caries dropped from 1721 in 2006-07 to 1531 in 2017-18, according to NSW Health data.

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