Tooth decay surges: More kids in hospital under general anaesthetic

New figures have shown tooth decay resulted in the hospitalisation of 630 children aged 0-3 in South Australia, who had to have dental treatment under general anaesthetic in 2015-16. Soaring cases of major dental work needed by children has seen a 55 per cent increase in the past decade in general anaesthetic provided to children aged 0-8 years for dental treatment in hospitals.

Dental colleagues in South Australia have told the media of dire cases, including a three-year-old child whose entire set of milk teeth had to be extracted as they were “black stumps”, Sutherland Shire’s Dr Peter Bouboulos said.

“In a first world country like Australia, this should not be happening,” Dr Bouboulos said.

“Just because children lose their baby teeth, doesn’t mean they aren’t important.

“Healthy baby teeth enable children to eat solid foods and are essential in the development of their jawbone, ensuring there is enough space for adult teeth to come through in the correct position.

“Baby teeth also help with sounding words correctly as children learn to speak.”

Diet and dental hygiene are of upmost importance in preventative paediatric dentistry and, given the age of the children, parents need to me more aware of how to reduce or completely eliminate the risk of tooth decay.

“Before they are three, brush twice a day with tap water only. This gets them into a good oral hygiene routine,” Dr Bouboulos said.

“Children should start using fluoride toothpaste when they turn three. Brushing should be done first thing in the morning and at bedtime – after the final snack.

“Make sure your child uses only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. If your child doesn’t like the “tingly taste” of the toothpaste you’re using, keep searching until you find the taste they like.

“Young children have not yet developed good co-ordination so your help with brushing is important. Brush along the gum line and the chewing surfaces using a small circular motion.

“Most children tend to miss the cheek surfaces of the upper back teeth and the tongue surfaces of the lower back teeth. Teach your child to brush their tongue too.

“If your child likes snacks, rinsing with or drinking tap water after these snacks would be helpful in preventing tooth decay. And encourage your child to drink tap water frequently, in place of bottled water where possible for the added benefit of the fluoride.”

For more FAQ on children’s dental health, including how to reduce the risk of tooth decay, click here>

For more about our paediatric dental services, including preventing and curing tooth decay, click here>

Healthy, happy smile tip: It is important children are introduced to dental visits early – we recommend the first visit occurs when they are around three-years-old. This can help reduce anxiety about going to the dentist, plus it allows your dentist to monitor development and cleaning habits.


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