Children: the forgotten casualties when it comes to dental health

Data shows only half of Australia’s children visit a dentist before age five.
Data shows only half of Australia’s children visit a dentist before age five.

This article is sponsored by Dental on Bowen

DID YOU know that infants are born without the bacteria that cause tooth decay?

Dental decay or ‘caries’ is the most common infectious disease of childhood, caused by bacteria; Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sorbinus.

Many infants receive these bacteria by sharing saliva with a parent or caregiver. Passing it on can be as simple as testing food before feeding it to a child or cleaning a pacifier off in their own mouth instead of washing it with water.

Streptococcus mutans favours hard non-shedding surfaces like teeth however studies have shown its ability to colonise on the tongue of infants that haven’t had teeth erupt yet. 

Dental decay, or dental caries is the most common chronic disease globally and is a serious public health problem.

Dental decay, or dental caries is the most common chronic disease globally and is a serious public health problem.

These bacteria break down sugars for energy, causing an acidic environment in the mouth and result in demineralization and dental caries when the primary teeth finally do erupt. All primary teeth have usually fully erupted by approximately two years of age, yet data has shown that only half of Australia’s children visit a dentist before age five. 

Australia’s Oral Health Tracker shows that one-third of Australian children have experienced decay in their primary teeth by six years of age and per 1000, there are 9.3 potentially preventable hospitalisations in children due to dental conditions. In 2015-16 there were over 67,000 potentially preventable hospitalisations (PPHs) due to dental conditions.

The large majority of these hospitalisations are decay-related and are considered preventable. Dental decay, or dental caries is the most common chronic disease globally and is a serious public health problem. Its consequences can affect the quality of life of the child and can have significant social and economic consequences beyond the immediate family.

Early lessons on how to maintain good dental health are essential for children.

Early lessons on how to maintain good dental health are essential for children.

Therefore, for a child to have the best start in life it is extremely important for the people close to the infant to be dentally fit and healthy as well. This can be as simple as regularly visiting a dentist for examinations and cleans and ensuring that adequate oral hygiene practices such as brushing and flossing daily and maintaining a balanced diet with a low sugar intake.

A presence of bacteria causing infection or dental decay in your mouth will most likely end up being passed onto your child. Therefore it is important to not be complacent about your own health, as it affects your children. Remember a healthy child relies on healthy family members.

Dental Health Week, which takes place this year from August 6 to 12, is the Australian Dental Association’s major annual oral health promotion event. 

Dr Samantha Messmer

This article is sponsored by Dental on Bowen