A Cavity Free Future by 2026? It is possible, if we all play our part

Can you imagine a future without cavities, dentist drills or fillings? 14 October is World Cavity Free Future Day – a day where we can each plan how to play our part in making a Cavity Free Future by 2026 a reality. A good start is to choose water on World Cavity Free Future Day. Not only is this a good habit to help fight cavities, it can also help to spread awareness of dental disease and how to prevent it.

Dental cavities are the most common chronic disease in childhood , and statistics show that dental decay continues into adulthood with more than 90% of Australian adults affected . Yet, it is mostly a preventable disease. To prevent dental decay, we each need to take action.

In Australia, the current situation is alarming. More than 34% of children aged 5-6 years have had cavities in their primary (also known as baby) teeth. On average, these children have 1.5 primary teeth with cavities. What is particularly concerning is that more than a quarter of children aged 5-10 years (27.1%) have untreated dental cavities in their primary teeth.

Dental decay results from a complex interplay between the general oral health of the individual, combined with bacteria and fermentable carbohydrates (sugars and other carbohydrates from food and drink) interacting over time. These days, many people will choose sports, soft drinks and juices over tap water. Our increasing preference for bottled water means that we aren’t receiving the benefit of fluoridated water. Even foods we think are healthy might actually contain sugar and other ingredients that, when consumed regularly, can cause damage.

So, how can you play your part in achieving a Cavity Free Future by 2026? Establishing good oral health routines from birth is key.

There are five main steps to keep in mind with our children, that will help to ensure their future is cavity-free.

1. Choose the right foods

Lots of snacking or grazing on sugary foods between meals should be avoided as this not only presents a risk to young teeth, but also reduces the child’s appetite for healthier main meals. Children should be encouraged to eat three meals a day, and no more than two healthy snacks. Teeth need to rest, remineralise and recover before they are put to work again.

Meals should include a variety of foods with lots of colour. A colourful plate of fresh foods will not only be more appealing to a young child but will contain many more essential ingredients.

2. Brush twice a day, and floss

It’s important to establish a routine of mouth cleaning even before teeth have appeared in your child’s mouth. Initially use a washcloth over your finger to wipe the gums and remove food deposits from the gums and tongue. Once teeth appear, a small soft brush can be used. Continue assisting or supervising brushing until the child is around 8 years old.

Parents should start flossing their child’s teeth when their second baby molars are through. By the time all the baby teeth have been lost, children should be flossing by themselves.

3. Drink tap water

Tap water is definitely the drink of choice for everyday consumption. It’s free, readily available, essential for health and, in most parts of Australia, contains fluoride that strengthens teeth. Offer water to your child from a young age, and they are likely to enjoy it as a thirst quencher for the rest of their lives.

4. Use a fluoride toothpaste

Always use an age-appropriate fluoride toothpaste. A low flavour, low foaming paste will often suit young children best. If you are having trouble finding a fluoride toothpaste that your child is happy with, ask your oral health professional for advice. There are a few options available and finding the right one may make a difference. Often, however, it is just a matter of perseverance.

Distraction tactics can be quite effective, perhaps try using brushing apps or music, or make a game of brushing.

5. Have regular check-ups

It’s recommended that children have their first visit to a dental clinic around their first birthday. At this stage, the visit is more about familiarisation, although they may be assessed for certain risk factors. The dentist will then determine whether your child needs to attend the dentist once or twice a year, or more often, depending on their individual needs.

Anyone who has ever tried to change a lifelong habit knows that it is incredibly hard. So, if we look to establish good oral health routines from infancy, the aim of a cavity-free future by 2026 may be within reach.

 

[1] Oral health of Australian children: the National Child Oral Health Study 2012–14. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press.
[2] Australia’s dental generations: the National Survey of Adult Oral Health 2004–06. AIHW cat. no. DEN 165. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (Dental Statistics and Research Series No. 34). 2007.
[3] Oral health of Australian children: the National Child Oral Health Study 2012–14. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press.
[4] Oral health of Australian children: the National Child Oral Health Study 2012–14. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press.
[5] Oral health of Australian children: the National Child Oral Health Study 2012–14. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press.
[6] Oral health of Australian children: the National Child Oral Health Study 2012–14. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press.

 


 

About the Oral Health Advisory Panel

The Oral Health Advisory Panel (OHAP) was established in 2013 to raise the awareness of the importance of good oral health and its impact on general wellbeing. The panel comprises 13 independent health care experts including Dental Practitioners (Dentists, Dental Therapists & Oral Health Therapists), Academics leading research into improving oral health, Public Health Advisors, an Accredited Practising Dietitian (with expertise in oral health), a Developmental Psychologist and representation from the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER), and the Australian Dental Association.

Colgate has enabled the establishment of the group and is represented on the panel by Dr Sue Cartwright, Scientific Affairs Manager and Dentist of 25 years.

 

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Susan Cartwright
Susan Cartwright

Scientific Affairs Manager for Colgate Oral Care, South Pacific Region.

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