The lack of progress in tackling tooth decay among preschool children in Hong Kong has raised concerns about government policy and public awareness of dental services for the young, a study has found.
The article, published in the May edition of the Hong Kong Medical Journal, also pointed out that oral health of children remains unsatisfactory, and the city’s public dental health services are not being sufficiently utilised. It said “much improvement” is needed to tackle gum diseases such as gingivitis.
There is still some progress compared to the 1960s however. The first ever public study on the oral health of children aged six to 11, conducted in 1960, suggested that over 90 per cent of them suffer from tooth decay.
Since 1961, domestic water in Hong Kong has been fluoridated by the government to combat this problem.
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By 1980s, the prevalence of tooth decay was said to be down by about 50 per cent, thanks to the introduction of the School Dental Care Service in 1979.
Heightened awareness of dental care, as well as access to such services due to growing affluence of the population, helped further limit tooth decay to about a quarter of the city’s children in recent years.
Preschool children aged three to six however, were a group that showed the least improvement. In 1988, it was reported that 63 per cent of preschoolers suffer from tooth decay. Two reports by the Department of Health in 2002 and 2012 put the figure at 51 per cent and 50.7 per cent respectively.
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The study in the Hong Kong Medical Journal is calling for further measures to be rolled out by the government other than relying on water fluoridation and the school dental service scheme. This include policies to raise awareness among parents for their children’s oral health, and advocating that parents bring their kids for regular dental check-ups.