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Rotten teeth: Thousands of Queensland kids suffer decay

Around 55 per cent of children aged five to 14 attending Queensland Health oral health services have a history of tooth decay, with 24 per cent experiencing decay in four or more teeth, according to the latest data* set to be released next month.

Queensland Health Director of Oral Health Services, Dr Peter Osborne said approximately, of the 130,000 children aged between five and 14 who attended oral health services in 2016-17, more than 73,000 had experienced tooth decay.

“More than 4000 children aged 0–9 years are admitted to Queensland hospitals each year with severe tooth decay in their baby teeth or adult teeth, while one quarter of all hospitalisations for dental conditions were for children aged 0-14 years,” Dr Osborne said.

“Oral diseases are among the most common and costly health problems experienced by Queenslanders, yet they are some of the most preventable.

“Sadly, these figures show we are not giving our children the best start.

“To improve oral health outcomes, including the risk of decay, we need to focus on promoting healthy eating, good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups. Community water fluoridation is also important to address disparities in oral health.”

Dr Osborne said while hospitalisation rates for non-Indigenous children had decreased by 19 per cent over the last ten years, rates for Indigenous Queensland children in the same age group continued to increase.

“We know there is more work to be done to close the gap in oral health between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Queenslanders,” he said.

“Over the past 10 years, admission rates for Indigenous Queensland children aged 0–9 years has increased by 32 per cent. We know this is an issue particularly in the North and South West of our state.

“Around 70 per cent of Indigenous children aged 5 to 14 years have experienced decay and 41 per cent of those children had four or more teeth affected.

“We are working to improve access to oral health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, through a range of projects and partnerships.

“These include a telehealth project to support oral health care in the Torres Strait and funding to deliver culturally appropriate oral health services to Indigenous Queenslanders living in the South East.”

Dr Osborne said to improve oral health outcomes for all Queensland children, parents could follow a few simple rules.

“Parents should ensure their children brush their teeth twice a day, every day, using a small, soft toothbrush, with a pea sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Children need help with brushing from parents until they are about eight years old,” he said.

“Other important strategies to prevent decay are to limit the consumption of sugary foods and drinks.

“Parents should also book their children in for their first dental check-up before they turn two, and regularly after that – some children may need more frequent examinations and professional preventive care depending on their individual risk of decay.”

*The 2018 Health of Queenslanders report is set to be released next month.


Media contact: 3708 5376

Last updated: 31 October 2018