Which Aussie kids are at higher risk of tooth decay?

Which Aussie kids are at higher risk of tooth decay?

The incidence of tooth decay in children – up to 6 years of age – has been steadily increasing since 2000, according to the 2015 report on oral health and dental care in Australia (released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra). The report presented key facts and figures, drawn from annual data collected in Australia since 1977.

The most recent statistical data, presented in the report, indicate that 55% of 6 year olds had had tooth decay in their baby teeth. While 48% of 12 year olds had had it in their permanent teeth.

So what are the high risk factors that jeopardise our kids’ oral health? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are a number of risk and protective factors (as well as clinical findings) that need to be assessed, in order to determine if a child is at low or high risk for tooth decay or caries.

The caries risk, in order of priority, includes the following risk factors:

  • The mother or main caregiver has had ongoing decay in the last year.
  • The mother or primary caregiver does not have a dentist.
  • The child continually uses a bottle or sippy cup with drinks (e.g. soft drinks or juice) other than water.
  • Frequent snacking on refined carbohydrates and high-sugar foods.
  • Special health care needs.

The protective factors that can lower the caries risk of a child:

  • An existing dental home (this means the child has the same dentist to care for and manage their oral health over a long term period).
  • Fluoridated water intake or fluoride supplements.
  • Fluoride varnish treatment within the last 6 months.
  • Brushing teeth twice daily.

Dentists can also identify high risk factors from the following clinical findings, (in order of priority):

  • White spots or visible decalcifications in the previous 12 months.
  • Visible tooth decay.
  • Presence of tooth restorations (e.g. fillings).
  • Visible accumulation of plaque.
  • Gingivitis – symptoms include gum bleeding, swelling and/or redness.
  • Health and presence of all teeth.

If your child (or one you know) is at high risk, then referral to a dentist, with follow-up dental care, is essential. And by ensuring that the high-risk factors are eliminated and the protective factors are practiced at home, you can give your child the best start to life-long oral health.




Fun and interesting tooth facts and trivia

Fun and interesting tooth facts and trivia

Here are some fun and interesting dental Q&As, facts and trivia to chew on, for the holidays.

To get things started, let’s take a look at Tooth Fairy payouts – the first regular income that most children can expect to earn and save.

Tooth fairy pay-rates over the years: In the U.S., the average amount of money that the tooth fairy has paid for teeth has changed over the last 100 years. In 1900, it was 12c; in 1950, it was 25c; from 1980, it was $1, for the next decade; and in 2015, it was about $4. All up, a child can expect to earn about $80 nowadays, for trading in their entire set of baby teeth with the tooth fairy.

Did kids from ancient times have tooth decay? No. In anthropological studies, researchers have found little evidence of wide-spread tooth decay among children of the past. Why? According to the American Dental Association, this was because sugar was not included in their diet.

In Britain, at the start of the 18th century (1700s), the average sugar intake (in one year) was 1.8 kg. In the 19th century, it quadrupled. In the first half of the 20th century, it doubled again. Finally, in the last 50 years – the golden age of modern junk food – sugar intake has tripled, which leads us to the next question: What is the annual average sugar intake today? The average is approximately 140 kg!

Do other animals develop tooth decay and cavities? Animals generally don’t experience tooth decay and cavities, because they don’t eat sugar (or refined carbohydrates). That doesn’t mean they don’t have oral health problems. Cats and dogs can develop plaque, tartar and gum disease, just like humans.

How much of your tooth surface do you miss cleaning, if you don’t floss? 35%. Flossing is as necessary for good oral health as brushing your teeth. Floss once a day, before you go to bed. At night, your saliva production drops significantly, allowing oral bacteria to feast (and multiply) on food residue, as you sleep.

How many times do you use chew or bite in one year? 345,600 times, though this figure can vary depending on the kind of food you eat. At any rate, it pays to keep your teeth strong and healthy to do all that work!

Finally, what cheeses have been found to protect teeth and prevent tooth decay? Aged Cheddar, Swiss and Monterey Jack.

To be continued…