More than 20% of eight-year-olds, 50% of 12-year-olds and 75% of 15-year-olds have experienced decay in their permanent teeth.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood and the level of tooth decay is higher among Irish children than their UK counterparts, according to a leading researcher on oral health.
Dr Carmel Parnell, researcher and a senior dental surgeon in the HSE, revealed the figures at the Annual Seminar of the Public Dental Surgeons Group this week in Wexford.
Dr Parnell also said that the severity of decay being experienced by Irish children was also of concern.
‘A substantial proportion of children at five, 12 and 15 years of age have experienced decay in five teeth or more’, she said.
Dr Parnell said that while there was no national data on the oral health of preschool children, the local surveys that had been undertaken provided grounds for concern.
She cited the most recent survey of preschool children, which found that 27% of three-year-olds had decay.
Dr Parnell also said that the prevalence and severity of decay in teeth was significantly higher among disadvantaged children.
While oral health advice on diet and tooth brushing has been incorporated into some existing parenting information, this is not the case throughout the country, Dr Parnell added.
Good dietary habits, which include limiting the amount of sweet foods and drinks, need to be promoted for good general as well as oral health.
The only dental-specific dietary advice for very small children is never to put sweet drinks, including juice, into a bottle and never let a child sleep or nap with a bottle or feeding cup.
More generally Dr Parnell said that oral health education should be incorporated into the Social and Personal Health Education program of the school curriculum and children who are felt to be at high risk of tooth decay should have fissure sealants applied and maintained in vulnerable teeth.
Read more about oral health
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By Alison Healy
The level of tooth decay is higher among Irish children than those in Britain, the annual seminar of the Public Dental Surgeons Group in Wexford has heard.
Oral health researcher Dr Carmel Parnell said that more than one in five Irish eight-year-olds had experienced decay in their permanent teeth while half of 12-year-olds had tooth decay. That figure rose to 75 per cent for 15-year-olds.
She said the severity of decay being experienced by Irish children was also of concern. “A substantial proportion of children at five, 12 and 15 years of age have experienced decay in five teeth or more,” Dr Parnell said.
While there is no national data on the oral health of preschool children, she said local surveys provided grounds for concern. One such survey found that 27 per cent of three-year-olds had decay.
Dr Parnell said oral health education should be incorporated into the Social and Personal Health Education [SPHE] programme in the school curriculum. Children who were felt to be at high risk of tooth decay should have fissure sealants applied and maintained in vulnerable teeth, she added.
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Comment from R. Pocock, Dublin
1. Higher prevalence of decay in Irish children (70% fluoridated) than in UK children (10% fluoridated).
2. This report is remarkable for there being no mention of fluoridation and its claimed protective effects for all ages, so the question it raises is “why have so many children in Ireland got worse/more dental decay than UK children?”
3. While there are no quoted figures permitting international comparisons of DMFT or dmft (for milk teeth) nevertheless it is clear that for disadvantaged children, fluoridation has failed them. So much for the unsupported claim by the SCSHA consultation which claimed that fluoridation in Hampshire would ‘lessen health inequalities’ in oral health, a claim previously soundly refuted by the UK NHS York Review(2000).
4. Main new dental-specific dietary suggestion is not to put sweet drinks in baby bottles …wow! besides the push fo sealants(fluoride of course) to high risk children ie pretty well all children.
5. The Irish fluoride devotees will no doubt downplay this with their usual ‘additive benefit’ of fluoride delivery via drinking water — for which there is no good supporting evidence, as the rest of Europe and many Irish dentists know.
This report is attributed to a leading researcher in oral health here and while no scientifically valid evidence is produced by this press story, it is certainly a welcome change from the fluoridation-driven propaganda which usually passes for ‘oral health research’ here. Prof Vyvyan Howard has described Ireland as the most fluoridated country in the world and we have a level of dental fluorosis in children (37%) to back this up.