PRESCHOOLERS in WA are having to undergo major dental work, including emergency extractions, because their teeth have decayed beyond repair.
New research shows about 40 per cent of five year olds in WA have tooth decay and 12 per cent were suffering from severe tooth decay.
Six per cent of the 1575 children surveyed were classed as having an extremely high level of decay.
Dental Health Services of WA director David Neesham said that, despite significant improvements in dental care, it was unacceptable that a small group of children had more than six out of 20 infected teeth.
Dr Neesham said it was hard to explain because the condition was preventable and not caused by genetics or development.
Poor diet, low fluoride levels in some areas and parents’ lack of awareness of the need to clean children’s teeth were probably to blame.
“Children, generally, have good oral health,” he said. “But there is a small group of children who have quite severe problems and need urgent extractions of infected baby teeth because of excessive decay.”
Australian Dental Association oral health education committee chairman Don Wilson said many parents had been lulled into a false sense of security about the protection of fluoridated water.
He said another common problem for young children was Early Childhood Caries – where the top front teeth decayed because children had been bottle-fed for an extended time.
He said the condition cost the community $20 million a year to treat.
Australasian Academy of Pediatric Dentistry president Peter Gregory agreed the most common problem for children was Early Childhood Caries.
Dr Gregory said many parents did not realise teeth needed to be cleaned as soon as they emerged around six to nine months.