TO: News Room
FROM: Michele Hider, Communications Manager
DATE: 13 February 2009
SUBJECT: Canterbury Preschoolers Getting Fewer Cavities
The number of Canterbury five year olds with cavities in their teeth dropped by 12 per cent between 2000 and 2008, according to the latest statistics from Canterbury District Health Board’s Community Dental Service. The Service’s Clinical Director Martin Lee said that over the same period the percentage of pre-schoolers accessing oral health services had increased from 53% to 84%.
“This is great news for the long term oral health of our community. Unfortunately we don’t have fluoridated water in most parts of Canterbury, which would make the greatest impact on oral health, but increased contact with preschoolers and their parents seems to be paying dividends,” Dr Lee said.
“We are striving to see still more children but things are certainly on the right track,” he said. “By seeing children when they are very young, we can pick up problems early and talk to parents/caregivers about how best to look after young teeth.”
Our most important message is that tooth decay is preventable, Dr Lee said. Teeth brushing twice a day is important for children as soon as their first teeth appear. Low fluoride toothpastes should not be used. And children, like the rest of the population, should be drinking milk and water to protect their teeth and for their general health.
Dr Lee said the increase in the number of children being seen is largely due to the well co-ordinated work being done by Well Child Tamariki Ora Providers, General Practices and Community Dental Service staff. “We receive up to 500 referrals a month,” he said.
In the next year, the Community Dental Service will be undertaking a new programme to reach preschoolers at most risk of dental problems. “We will see these children every six months from the age of one. Pre-schoolers at lower risk of cavities will be referred to Oral Health Services by Well Child Providers at 2 ½ years, as part of the re-design of Canterbury’s Community Dental Service.”