More school-aged children than ever before are being hospitalised for avoidable dental* conditions.
And one in 10 children have teeth missing due to decay by the age of seven or eight.
Alarming new New South Wales Health data shows the number of children in NSW aged 5-14 undergoing hospital treatment for tooth decay has more than doubled from 2093 cases in 2001-02 to 4430 in 2017-18.
More children of that age were hospitalised for dental issues than any other “potentially* preventable” health condition last year. Teeth troubles beat asthma, epilepsy and ear, nose and throat infections.
There were 2667 children who needed hospital treatment for asthma in NSW 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 cases of tooth decay significantly outnumbering other oral* issues such as injury, developmental disorders or infections.
Children’s dental health needs to improve right across the country.
By ages seven to eight, almost one in 10 children or 7.5 per cent across Australia have missing teeth due to caries*, according to a recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report.
TOO MUCH SUGAR
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.
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*.”
MORE CARE NEEDED
Dr Peppitt also said a lack of brushing and reminders from parents around the importance of oral health were to blame for dental caries, which are 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.
Clovelly mum Clementine Jones 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.”
How to brush your teeth (ADA)
GOOD TOOTH HEALTH
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head and flexible neck.
- Use a pea-sized piece of toothpaste.
- Brush your teeth morning and night for at least two minutes, every day.
- Brush the back, front and biting surface of each tooth in a circular motion.
- Brush your tongue to remove bacteria.
- Spit out the toothpaste but don’t rinse your mouth.
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks.
- Visit the dentist regularly for a check-up.
Source: Australian Dental Association
- dental: to do with teeth
- potentially: possibly
- hospitalisations: when someone is admitted to hospital
- anaesthetic: drug that puts you to sleep so you can have an operation
- oral: to do with the mouth
- caries: cavities, decay
- fluoridated: fluoride added to drinking water, thought to improve tooth health
- preventable: able to be prevented or avoided
- means: a way in which something is achieved
- beverages: drinks
- What percentage of children across Australia have missing teeth due to decay?
- What is the best drink for tooth health?
- What two things mentioned can parents do to help their kids?
- Should you choose a hard or soft toothbrush? Why?
- Should you rinse your mouth after you brush?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Good dental health
After reading the Kids News article and watching the video on the problem of dental decay and how to properly brush your teeth, complete a KWL (What you know, what you want to know and what you learnt) chart.
Divide a page into three columns, with these headings at the top:
KNOW (what I already know about dental health and teeth brushing)
WANT TO KNOW (what questions do I have about dental health and teeth brushing)
LEARNT (What I learnt about dental health and teeth brushing)
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical Education
Work with a partner and create an acronym to help kids remember the main points to focus on when brushing their teeth, as mentioned in the article or video. An acronym is an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word, for example NASA, which stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking
With a partner see if you can identify all the doing words/verbs in this text. Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb. Make sure it still makes sense in the context it was taken from.
Try to replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.
HAVE YOUR SAY: What more could you do to look after your teeth? Have you ever had tooth decay? Did you go to the dentist for treatment?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.