INCREASED consumption of bottled water may be contributing to a marked decline in the dental health of young Australian children.
A national study has found an increase in decayed, missing or filled baby teeth during the 1990s.
The Child Dental Health Survey, Australia 1999: Trends across the 1990s compared 372,000 children with previous studies.
It found an alarming decline in the condition of children’s teeth, particularly among the under-fives. “These data follow two decades of recorded declines in decay experience in children,” the report said.
“They show a trend of increases in decay in younger children, and that some children have very high levels of decay.”
Report co-author Jason Armfield said the study did not look at the reasons behind this.
However, he speculated that reduced fluoride intake and dietary changes – such as higher sugar consumption – may be contributing.
“There’s no evidence for what’s happening but there’s probably a few things you could put it down to,” he said.
“One of them could be the increased popularity of bottled and tank water.
“We have evidence that children who consume higher amounts of water from rainwater tanks and bottled water have higher caries (caries) experience than children drinking water from fluoridated public mains water.”
There was a 22 per cent increase in decayed, missing or filled teeth in children aged five and under between 1996 and 1999.
Six year-olds in the ACT had the lowest number of decayed, filled or missing teeth while those in Queensland had the highest, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report found.
Twelve-year-olds in Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria had the highest average number of decayed, missing or filled teeth.
However, the dental standards of Australian children remained high by world standards, Mr Armfield said.