Toddlers as young as one are having general anaesthetics to remove or crown rotten teeth.
Paediatric dentists say rotten teeth in very young Perth children is a massive problem with about 20 children a week being given a general anaesthetic for extensive reconstructive dentistry and a further seven for extractions.
Paediatric dentist Peter Readman said nursing bottle decay, which resulted when children were allowed to go to sleep with bottles filled with sugary drinks or even milk, was the main cause of childhood decay.
“When teeth are bathed in sugar all night or if they are having frequent bottles of juice, or cordial, the result will be tooth decay,” he said.
“People don’t really associate the relationship between bottles and tooth decay and obviously the greater the exposure the greater the risk.”
Front teeth and baby molars were the most commonly affected.
Many parents failed to seek dental advice when their children’s first teeth became rotten because they assumed the teeth would fall out naturally. Crowning young children’s decayed teeth was common.
Teeth needed to be brushed as soon as they cut through the gum and toothpaste introduced by about 18 months of age.
Oral surgeon Raymond Williamson said he operated on about seven children a week where teeth were so decayed they could not be restored.
Bottled water was partly to blame for the decay epidemic because many people were drinking it instead of tap water even though it did not contain tooth-toughening fluoride.
Professor Williamson said it was a good idea for people, including children, to supplement their diets with a daily fluoride pill.
“Just to get the recommended daily dosage of fluoride children from the age of two need to drink a litre of tap water per day and that just doesn’t happen,” he said.
Six-year-old Taylah Ford had four front teeth and two molars removed on Monday by general anaesthetic.
Her mother, Sharron Northcott, said the teeth began to decay virtually from the moment they appeared. The teeth were so rotten that they began to crumble and break away.
As a baby, Taylah often had a dummy coated in jam and her mother believed there was too much sugar in her breast milk.
“The decay probably happened because Mummy spoilt her,” she said.
“I was dying for the decayed teeth to fall out but it never happened.”
Ms Northcott said now that all Taylah’s rotten teeth had been dealt with, she hoped to put the problem behind her. Her second teeth would not be affected by the decay in the baby teeth and she planned to look after the new teeth more thoroughly