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Gaps in Waikato youngsters’ smiles

Forty two per cent of Waikato preschoolers have experienced tooth decay, a report on the 2012 oral health of 5 year olds shows.

“Once you’ve got decay, you’ve generally got a lot of it,” according to Diane Pevreal, service manager for Waikato District Health Board’s Waikids Community Oral Health, which provides free dental care for more than 60,000 Waikato children.

Waikato DHB statistics show that on average children with decay have five teeth affected. To fix five teeth is likely to require 2-3 hours of dental care which is a big ask for any preschooler and risks creating an anxiety around dental care that may last a lifetime, she said.

“Having five fillings is also an indicator that those same children will suffer from tooth decay throughout their lifetime, which is an additional expense when free care ends from 18 years of age.

Community dentist Jennifer Norris said the worst cases of dental decay in children are treated at hospital under general anaesthetic – about 1000 Waikato children each year.  “For many of these children their teeth are so rotted that they are beyond saving and the only treatment option for dentists is to surgically take them out.”

By following simple rules at home, parents can make a big difference for their children.

“Parents need to check that they’re doing the right things at home, as tooth decay is almost entirely preventable,” Ms Pevreal said.

Parents often get a fright at how quickly untreated tooth decay progresses, and they should look for changes in their preschooler’s teeth and get care immediately if they notice a change.

Prevention needs to start early in a baby’s life and visiting Waikids Community Oral Health at least once each year from one year of age will get babies off to a really good start.

It’s a free service.

To enrol phone 0800 TALK TEETH, or 0800 825 583.

Dental therapists will encourage children to drink only water or milk and will show parents how to brush youngsters’ teeth twice each day with an adult strength fluoridated toothpaste.

The clinics are well-equipped to help strengthen teeth against decay and can seal grooves that look likely to decay.

Fluoridation of water supplies is a safe and effective way to help protect people of all ages from dental decay in every part of the community.  For this reason Waikato DHB encourages local territorial authorities and communities to support water fluoridation in their districts.

ENDS

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