Many of us are setting our children up for poor oral health

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: A poll has sparked concerns many children are suffering from poor oral health, with many not seeing dentists regularly enough.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: A poll has sparked concerns many children are suffering from poor oral health, with many not seeing dentists regularly enough.

A Bendigo-based expert is not at all surprised by new research showing many parents are inadvertently setting their children up for a lifetime of poor oral health.

A poll conducted by the Royal Children’s Hospital has sparked concerns that infrequent tooth brushing, few visits to dentists and a sugar-laden diet are all fueling dental problems.

One in three Australian children do not brush their teeth twice a day.

One in 10 have have at least one decayed tooth pulled out before their ninth birthday.

The research has also uncovered for the first time that one in three preschoolers have never visited a dentist and that many well-meaning parents are confused about how to best keep their child’s teeth healthy.

La Trobe University head of dentistry and oral health Mark Gussy welcomed the research.

His own research has shown that what happened in a child’s mouth during their first year of life sets them up either for a future of disease or for strong oral health.

In Bendigo, a dramatic increase in dentists over ten years had not come with a rise in the number of very young children appearing for checkups.

“So that critical period where parents are not seeing anybody for advice about their children’s teeth is problematic,” Professor Gussy said.

He said there were complex reasons parents might not take children to the dentist, including challenges finding a professional comfortable seeing very young children.

Parents were also influenced by cost.

“If you have a family with a low level of resources it’s not easy for them to access care in the first place,” Professor Gussy said.

Some parents believed problems with baby teeth could be sorted out when children started school, but Professor Gussy urged earlier intervention.

He also reiterated calls for parents to clean their child’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste.

“Even if they cannot see a dentist, brushing a child’s teeth as soon as they erupt into the mouth will provide protection against decay,” he said.