8 Nov 2017

Increase in children with 'severe' dental issues

8:36 pm on 8 November 2017

Health experts have expressed worries about a rise in the number of young people with serious dental problems.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Many are requiring hospitalisation and even removal of their teeth while they are still young children.

This problem is increasing, even though children on average have healthier teeth than they did ten years ago.

Cathy Fuge, the clinical director of the Bee Healthy dental service in Wellington, said dental standards in Wellington were actually better than in many other parts of New Zealand.

Her service provided dental care for children - some of them under five.

"We are still finding that when children have decay, their experience is severe, which is heartbreaking," Dr Fuge said.

"Severe dental decay affects the way children eat and smile and play and live.

"Sometimes they have to take time off school and their parents have to take time off work, so it impacts their whole life."

Desperate to literally stop the rot, health authorities have launched campaigns like a drink-water promotion from the Olympic pole vaulter Eliza McCartney.

Dr Fuge fully concurred with this message.

The problems Dr Fuge and her colleagues described happened despite overall improvement: six out of 10 5-year-olds seen by the dental service have no cavities - up from five out of 10 a decade ago.

But of those with problems, more were being admitted to hospital, suggesting vulnerable minorities were missing out on the overall improvement.

Dental Association president Bill O'Connor said hospitalisation was a growing trend and far too many children were being admitted to hospital and sometimes having teeth extracted under full anaesthetic.

In some cases, the best care in the world still fell short of protecting a child's dental health.

Patricia Saxton - a young mother who turned up to the Bee Healthy clinic - had given her 2-year-old George and her young daughter Jade all the care she could.

"Sadly despite really good food and lots of water Jade has had five cavities and she is just five.

"So Bee Healthy has been wonderful. They make sure we floss every night with toothpaste on the floss and that we brush twice a day and that we have lots of water."

Ms Saxton said her family had little sugar and candy - even so, extra vigilance was needed.

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