Kiwi pre-schoolers losing teeth to painful, preventable tooth decay
Kiwi kids are suffering unnecessarily from severe tooth decay that could be prevented, according to research published today in JAMA Paediatrics, the highest-ranking journal of Paediatrics, Perinatology and Child Health in the world.
Dr Matthew Hobbs, UC Senior Lecturer in Public Health, participated in a study of fluoridation and dental health in New Zealand led by Professor Philip Schluter, UC Population Health expert, with Dr Martin Lee, Canterbury’s Community Dental Service Clinical Director; Helen Atkins, Director of Atkins Holm Majurey, New Zealand’s leading specialist environmental law firm; and President-elect, Water New Zealand; and Mr Barry Mattingley, Senior Scientist in drinking water quality at ESR, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute.
The findings show children who didn’t have a fluoridated water supply were 20% more likely to have severe tooth decay.
“Modern dentistry can only do so much to tackle this issue and by the time children receive dental care it’s often too late to save their baby teeth, which then affects the development of adult teeth,” says Dr Martin Lee, Canterbury’s Community Dental Service Clinical Director. “Community water fluoridation is the safest and most cost-effective preventative strategy we have to protect the teeth of all Kiwi kids, and the teeth of all New Zealanders generally.”
Nearly one in seven (15%) of four-year-olds who had had a B4 School Check were found to be severely affected by tooth decay. While the rates of severe decay were much higher for Māori and Pacific children and children living in deprived areas, no-one was immune – 7% of NZ/European children and children living in the least deprived areas had severe tooth decay.
Four-year-olds with severe decay frequently need a general anaesthetic for their dental treatment and many of those on hospital waiting lists have chronic toothache and abscesses.