Easter alert: Dentists urge parents to supervise their children's brushing

As Australians prepare to indulge in their favourite chocolate treats for Easter, a new report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has revealed an alarming rate of tooth decay in children.

Chocolate has been lining supermarket shelves for months in anticipation for Easter. 

Little baskets will be filled to the brim with Easter eggs collected at a crack-of-dawn hunt, children will be shovelling the sweet treats into their mouths and adults will be smiling to themselves knowing that it's the one time of the year that it would be almost rude not to indulge a little.

But with indulgence comes heightened responsibility - to look after your, and your children's teeth. 

The new dental report released by the AIHW revealed that young children were experiencing significant rates of tooth decay, the average child between 5 and 10 years old had between 1 and 2 baby teeth which were either decayed, missing or filled.

Bupa A&NZ Head Dentist Dr Kavita Lobo says many parents don’t realise just how important it is to look after a child’s baby teeth.

“As soon as a baby’s first tooth breaks through parents should be brushing them, or wiping them with a soft cloth, twice a day. Children need help with brushing until they’re about 8 years old,” Dr Lobo said.

“Cleaning routines for children’s teeth need to be in place well before a child’s adult teeth come through to set up good habits for life,” she said.

Perhaps most concerning was the 75 and over age group found to have on average 24 missing, decayed or filled teeth.

“Tooth loss can affect a person’s ability to chew and swallow easily, which can affect their nutrition, affecting their overall health and wellbeing. Poor oral health has also been associated with other chronic diseases like stroke and heart disease,” Dr Lobo said.

The new statistics were released for World Oral Health Day, celebrated on 20 March, the largest global awareness campaign spreading the message about how important it is to look after your teeth.

It’s recommended people visit their dentist for a check up every year but the report found less than half of Australians had visited their dentist in the 12 months prior to being surveyed, a quarter of them (25.9%) hadn’t seen a dentist for more than two years and one in 20 (5.5%) had never been to the dentist at all.

One in five children between two and 14 years old had never seen a dental professional and almost half of all adults aged over 85 hadn’t seen a dentist for more than two years.

The consequences of poor dental hygiene can be severe.

In 2016-17, there were more than 70 000 hospitalisations in Australia for dental conditions that may have been prevented with earlier treatment.

There are a range of different factors that contribute to poor oral health, including:

  • Sugar consumption
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Poor brushing and flossing habits
  • A lack of regular dental check ups
  • A lack of fluoride in drinking water
  • The cost of dental care
  • Public dental care waiting periods.

The take home message? Look after your teeth.

Brush with toothpaste at least twice daily for two minutes or more at a time. Floss frequently and book regular check-ups with your dentist.

After all, according to the AIHW report 9 in 10 people (88%) indicated their dentist always showed them respect.

Find your nearest Bupa Dental clinic here.

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