A Wodonga dentist has called for an expansion of fluoridation after tooth decay rates in the Murray Primary Health Network were revealed as worse than the Victorian state average.
Statistics from Dental Health Services Victoria on clients presenting at public dental health clinics showed decay was worse in every age group except those aged over 65.
More than 65 per cent of patients aged 25 to 44 presenting at clinics had at least one decayed tooth – 10 per cent higher than the average.
Daintree Family Dental Clinic’s Jahnavi Shah said, in her nine years in practice, she had seen a growing number of people presenting with the complication.
“It’s alarming – we see cases day in and day out and they’re mostly untreated,” she said.
“I understand there is a huge waiting list to get into the public health system but the awareness is also not there.
“It takes many years to get to that stage of tooth decay, which could have been treated easily early on.”
The Murray catchment scored highest in the state for service access, with 30 per cent of the 275,000 people eligible for public oral health services receiving care.
Rates of tooth decay were limited to the 0-17 age groups in local government areas, but Wodonga and Indigo both scored better than the state average in all brackets.
The report commented “only a handful” of suburbs across the Murray catchment were fluoridated.
Dr Shah said there was a need to introduce fluoridation in the North East’s outlying towns.
“We see a lot of patients coming from out of town who are on tank water and what we see is a high amount of cavities with those patients,” she said.
“There’s a huge amount of studies that have been done in Australia and overseas that show fluoridation in water reduces the chance of tooth decay.
“We don’t want a lot but the correct amount is definitely important.”
Dental Health Services Victoria’s report showed the majority of the Murray primary health network local government areas had zero or only partial levels of fluoridation.
Dr Shah said additional to increasing levels of fluoridation, residents in the North East needed to understand the importance of regular check-ups.
“Dental health is one of the only types of health you can be in control of and if you look after your teeth, you will be reward,” she said.
Dr Shah said it was crucial medicare schemes were continued for dental care despite the outcome of the federal election.
“I’ve seen so many kids that may not have come if they were not covered by Medicare,” she said.
“If that was taken away, I can tell you many parents would stop bringing their kids to the dentist.”