Oral Care and Health for Kids
1. How common is tooth decay in young Australian children?
Tooth decay is the most common serious childhood disease. By age 5 years, 42% of Australian children have one or more teeth with holes (cavities), or fillings, or teeth that have been extracted because of decay. On average, children at age 5 years have two teeth affected in this way, but 10 percent of children aged 5 years have as many as 10 teeth will holes, or fillings, or teeth that have been extracted.
2. Baby teeth fall out, so why is taking care of kids’ oral health so important?
Baby teeth fall out at different stages. The front teeth fall out at around age 5 years but some back teeth are not lost until around age 12 years. After age 5 years and until age 12 years, children have a mixture of both baby and permanent teeth. Tooth decay spreads from the baby teeth to the permanent teeth. The first permanent teeth at the back of the mouth come in around age 6 years and these teeth are most at-risk of decay and holes. They push through the gums rather slowly and may not be noticed but during this period they need to be cleaned daily and carefully with fluoride toothpaste to prevent early decay. In summary, taking care of kids’ oral health is so important for preschool children because good oral health helps to prevent new holes, tooth extractions, and the spread of decay from baby teeth to the new permanent teeth.
3. What happens if my child has a tooth with a hole in it? Will it need to be removed?
If your child has a tooth with a hole in it, the tooth needs to be treated by your dental professional because the decay inside the hole can be stopped and the hole can be fixed with a filling.
A new way to fix holes in back teeth is to cover the affected tooth with a stainless steel crown. This can be done painlessly without the need for local anaesthetic.
If holes are left untreated, the tooth may need to be extracted but this depends on the severity of the decay and size of the hole. With children under the age of 6 this often means a hospital visit and general anaesthetic administered to enable the removal of the tooth.
As featured in Practical Parenting – August issue.