Preventable tooth decay causes rise in GA lists - What can you do?

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Tooth decay – it’s the most common chronic disease in children and the most common reason why children are hospitalised for a general anaesthetic. In 2014-15 alone, dental conditions resulted in more than 2,100 potentially preventable hospital admissions for children aged four years and under in NSW.

But it only takes a few minutes a day to care for children’s teeth, reducing the risk of painful cavities and dental problems in later life.

Parents should clean their baby’s teeth as soon as they first appear, using a soft cloth or a soft children’s toothbrush, plus an under-six-years toothpaste by 18 months old.

Children should first visit the dentist at one year old and you can introduce low fluoride toothpaste if advised by the dentist.

Help older children brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Make tap water (which contains fluoride) their usual drink and understand that hidden sugars in juice or “healthy” snack foods can increase vulnerability to dental decay if consumed frequently.

GPs, practice nurses and early childhood health professionals can help by “lifting the lip” to check for early signs of tooth decay. Children with white lines along the gumline need to see the dentist, while those with brown or yellow spots that don’t brush off should see the dentist urgently.

Good oral health is an integral part of good general health and many dental conditions can be prevented with a few simple steps. Useful information about caring for children’s teeth can be found at Protecting Tiny Teeth, a resource we encourage health professionals to share with families and new parents.

Article written by Dr Catherine-Anne Walsh, director and councillor of the Australian Dental Association NSW Board and principal dentist at The Dentist At 70 Pitt Street.