Experts Say about Half of Australian Kids Have Tooth Decay
Nearly half of Australian children have untreated tooth decay, according to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), largely due to the prevalence of sugary, acidic beverages and snacks in their diets. The Department of Health for New South Wales (NSW), the country's most populous state, says some children develop cavities by their first birthday, and some require crowns before they enter elementary school.
ADA president Dr. Neil Hewsen said parents must accept much of the blame, especially those who allow "prolonged and extensive use of nursing bottles containing sugary drinks." He suggested an aggressive campaign to promote public awareness, similar to tactics used to battle smoking.
Dr. Philippa Sawyer, ADA Oral Health Committee chairwoman, said that a recent study shows that about 48 percent of Australian children have untreated tooth decay by age four, but that only about 10 percent have been seen by a dentist. She said that such widespread occurrence of any other disease would be declared an epidemic.
NSW health officials said tooth decay in children is most common in communities without fluoridated water, among the socioeconomically disadvantaged, and in Aboriginal families. Part of the problem, they said, is that about 30 percent of NSW children between five and eight years old do not receive regular dental care.
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