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Poll finds many kids have rotten teeth and don’t brush enough — but their parents are a big part of the problem

Grant McArthur, March 6, 2018 7:33PM Herald Sun

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Brushing your teeth should happen at least twice a day. media_cameraBrushing your teeth should happen at least twice a day.

health

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One in three Australian children do not brush their teeth twice a day and one in 10 have had at least one decayed* tooth pulled out before they turn eight, according to a new report.

The Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll also revealed for the first time that many well-meaning* parents are confused about how best to keep their children’s teeth healthy.

Brushing your teeth less than twice a day, not enough visits to the dentist and a diet high in sugar are all setting children up for a lifetime of poor dental* health, the survey of Australian parents reveals.

Three-year-old Jack Ryan brushes his teeth with dad Dan. Picture: Tim Carrafa media_cameraThree-year-old Jack Ryan brushes his teeth with dad Dan. Picture: Tim Carrafa

The latest poll, which was conducted in January, provides new information about how well parents understand how to keep teeth healthy and prevent health problems for their children.

The survey of 2073 parents, representing 3992 children, shows:

ONE in three children (33 per cent) do not have their teeth cleaned twice a day

ONE in four primary school-aged children (27 per cent) don’t brush their teeth twice a day. Similarly, one in four teenagers (27%) don’t brush their teeth twice a day

ONE in four parents (23 per cent) believe children only need to see the dentist if they have a problem with their teeth

ALMOST half of parents (48 per cent) don’t know that tap water, which contains fluoride, is better for teeth than bottled water

ONE in four parents (28 per cent) wrongly believe brushing once a day is OK

ONE in eight parents (23 per cent) believe children only need to brush their teeth if they eat sugary food.

However, some health messages are getting through, with 85 per cent of parents knowing that fruit juice is a sugary drink that can cause teeth to rot.

But, one in four children still drink sugary drinks almost every day, rising to one in three among teenagers.

A child with severe tooth decay. media_cameraA child with severe tooth decay.

Dr Anthea Rhodes, paediatrician* and RCH National Child Health Poll Director said: “These results are more concerning than we expected.
“For the first time, we can see that many parents are confused about what they need to do keep their child’s teeth healthy. Having a healthy mouth isn’t a matter of luck, it’s a matter of habit. Good habits can prevent many common dental problems.

“Tooth decay is largely preventable*, yet rates in young children are rising and kids are suffering unnecessarily.’’

Brushing your teeth twice a day with toothpaste is one of three key steps to good dental health. media_cameraBrushing your teeth twice a day with toothpaste is one of three key steps to good dental health.

Dr Rhodes said more parents needed to be made aware of how to prevent tooth decay in their children.

“Parents can’t solve this problem on their own. Health care professionals and policy makers* need to address the knowledge gap if we are to slow the rates of dental disease.”

Dr Rhodes said for ideal dental health, you should:

BRUSH your teeth twice a day

VISIT the dentist at least once a year for checkups from age one

CHOOSE a tooth-friendly diet, including drinking tap water instead of sugary drinks.

“These three simple things will help set your child up for a lifetime of good oral health,” Dr Rhodes said.

GLOSSARY

decayed: rotten

well-meaning: trying to do the right thing

paediatrician: a children’s doctor

preventable: able to be stopped or avoided

policy makers: people who create rules or actions, especially in politics

LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY

QUICK QUIZ
1. How often should you visit the dentist? 
2. One in how many Aussie children have had at least one decayed tooth pulled out before they turn eight? 
3. What sort of diet is bad for dental health? 
4. Which compound in tap water helps protect our teeth? 
5. Is fruit juice good for your teeth? Why or why not?

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

1. Healthy Teeth

Create a poster, using information from the article, aimed at younger children informing them on how to keep their teeth healthy and prevent tooth decay and dental disease. Make the poster easy to understand by using simple language and illustrations.

Extension: Outline in a paragraph, the reasons why you think parents are confused about what constitutes good dental health.

Time: Allow 25 minutes

Curriculum links: English, Health & Physical Education

2. Toothy Maths

The numbers in the article are taken from the Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll and it represents 3992 children and 2073 parents.

Using a calculator if you need, convert the percentages given in the article to number of children or parents that it represents.
For example 10% of children would represent 399.2 children. (On a calculator type in 10% x 3992). 10% of parents would represent 207.3.

Questions:

– 33% don’t have teeth cleaned twice a day =

– 27% of primary aged children don’t brush twice a day =

– 27% of teenagers don’t brush twice a day =

– 23% of parents believe you only need to go to dentist if you have a problem =

– 48% of parents don’t realise tap water is better than bottled water =

– 28% of parents believe brushing teeth once a day is ok =

– 13% of parents believe you only need to brush teeth after eating sugary food =

– 85% of parents realise fruit juice is sugary and causes tooth decay =

Extension: Make up your own maths questions for a partner to solve using the numbers from the health poll.

Time: Allow 20 minutes

Curriculum links: Mathematics

VCOP ACTIVITY

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many connectives as you can find in pink. Discuss if these are being used as conjunctions, or to join ideas and create flow.

IN ONE SENTENCE, TELL US WHAT YOU LIKE ABOUT TODAY’S STORY
Please do not use one-word answers. Explain what you enjoyed or found interesting about today’s article. Use lots of adjectives.

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