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Media Coverage in The Central Coast Express Advocate: Why You Should Brush Kids' Teeth Until They're Nine Years

15 July 2019
The Central Coast Express Advocate
Author: Richard Noone 

The ubiquity of sugar, a lack of parental intervention and an increase in dentists referring children for treatment under general anaesthetic are among a number of factors blamed for an alarming rise in hospitalisations for tooth decay.

It comes as the country’s peak dentistry body has taken the extraordinary step of recommending parents to brush their children’s teeth up to the age of nine. NSW Heath figures show the rate of hospitalisations on the Central Coast for tooth decay in children aged 0-14 has increased by almost 15 per cent from 2016 to 2018.

Hospitalisations dropped to their lowest levels in years after the former Gosford Council introduced fluoride into the water supply in 2008. However the Australian Dental Association (ADA) is concerned a myriad of factors has pushed hospitalisations for tooth decay on the Central Coast to pre-2008 levels.

The longer term trend is even more alarming with the rate of hospitalisations up 66.8 per cent from 2001 to 2018. This is compared to a statewide increase of 33 per cent over the same period.

Central Coast ADA NSW Division President Dr Tom Tseng said the introduction of fluoride in Gosford’s water supply helped but it was not a silver bullet.

“Fluoride is great but it can only do so much,” he said. “It’s like seatbelts, seatbelts save lives but they’re not going to prevent every incident.”

Instead he said the availability and low cost of sugary foods and drinks, and an increase in the use of bottled water, which does not contain fluoride, was contributing. Dr Tseng said other factors included a lack of supervision while children brushed their teeth, a legacy attitude of “oh well, it’s only their baby teeth” and an increased willingness by dentists to refer children for specialist treatment was also contributing.

Ideally he said parents or caregivers should brush their children’s teeth up to the age of eight or nine because “children don’t have the dexterity” and tend to just brush “the front ones they can see”.

But he said it was the baby molars, which children have the longest — from about the age of 2-12 — that were the problem for tooth decay. Dr Tseng said often the easiest way for dentists to treat children who present with tooth decay was to send them for hospital to have the work done under general anaesthetic.

“They don’t have that innate anxiety,” he said. “They wake up when the work is done and they don’t feel it.” However Dr Tseng said dental disease was preventable and “prevention is better than cure”.

He said parents should get their kids in to see a dentist when they are about two and a half years old before problems emerge.

“Most make the mistake of bringing them when they have a problem which makes it hard for everyone because the child is anxious, they can’t sit still for long enough,” he said.

Dr Tseng said a lot of parents also failed to take up the Government’s Child Dental Benefits Schedule, which allows eligible children up to $1000 every two years for dental treatment.

Click here for The Central Coast Express Advocate Article

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