Fluoridated water is an “absolutely great thing” for Queenslanders, according to a leading UK professor in children’s oral health.
Professor Raman Bedi, of London’s Kings College, is in Australia for three days for the annual meeting of the Australasian Global Child Dental Health Taskforce.
Professor Bedi, who directs the global taskforce into children’s dental health, said fluoridation of drinking water would have an “almost immediate effect” on the health of Queenslanders’ teeth.
“It will help everyone: older people with root decay – which is difficult to treat – and adults in early stages of root decay,” Professor Bedi said.
“But the biggest benefit will be for children still developing their teeth.”
Professor Bedi said up to 60 per cent of Australian children were affected by preventable tooth decay – with disadvantaged children twice as likely to be affected.
“Australia has always been a world leader in public health, but rates of tooth decay have gone slightly up in recent times,” he said.
“Ten per cent of Australian children have decay in half their teeth.”
In countries such as India and China, tooth decay among children can be as high as 90 per cent, he said.
“It’s a real global problem. It’s the 21st century – it shouldn’t be this bad.”
The effect of fluoridation on the health of Queenslanders’ teeth should be able to be measured within three or four years of it being introduced into the water, he said.
“We measure it by counting the number of children who have no tooth decay at all,” he said.
Professor Bedi said fluoridation of drinking water was one of the major strategies he’d used to improve dental health in England when he was the country’s Chief Dental Officer from 2002-2005.
During the meeting of the GCDHT in Sydney this week, Professor Bedi said members of the taskforce would be discussing ways to improve dental health in children around the world.
The taskforce is in operation in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa and the United States – with a total of 1 billion children.
One of the major ways the taskforce will improve children’s dental health is through a partnership with Colgate-Palmolive, Professor Bedi said.
The agreement with Colgate-Palmolive will see 30 million ‘dental health packs’ distributed to children around the world over five years; and the provision of 1,755,750 toothbrushes to school children in 2007 and 2008.
The taskforce also plans to launch a dental charity, the Global Child Dental Fund, in 2008.
Australia’s school dental services were one of the reasons the dental health of our school children was reasonably good, Professor Bedi said, but there were plenty of ways parents could improve their children’s teeth.
These include the standard rules of sticking to a good diet and keeping away from fizzy drinks and lollies, he said. But parents also needed to make sure they took care of their own teeth.
The bacteria that causes tooth decay can be passed from person to person – such as by kissing, he said.
Regular check-ups are also important – Professor Bedi said he took each of his three sons to the dentist about once a year.