Rise in bad baby teeth concerns dentists

New Plymouth dentist Adeel Punjwani at work at Medicross Dental clinic.
Fairfax NZ

New Plymouth dentist Adeel Punjwani at work at Medicross Dental clinic.

A nationwide trend showing young children developing tooth decay at an early age has begun to concern Taranaki dentists.

A recent health study showed the number one reason why children visited a hospital in New Zealand in 2014 was to get their teeth removed under general anaesthetic.

Taranaki District Health Board clinical director for hospital services Dr David Antunovic is concerned with the number of children having teeth pulled out.

"Up until September 2014, for the 2014-15 year, there were 10 two-year-olds that were referred to us for general anaesthetic," Antunovic said.

"Who, as a parent, wants their child at two years of age admitted for a general anaesthetic to have their teeth ripped out."

Dr Antunovic said decay was one reason why teeth were being removed so early.

"Tooth decay is totally preventable and children's teeth are at risk of decay as soon as their teeth grow through the gum, usually around six months of age," he said.

"The majority of teeth removed are baby teeth which are very important to children's overall oral health and healthy teeth play an important role in a child's development.

"Health professionals nationally are talking about this right now and it is proven that water fluoridation reduces decay for everyone," he said.

In 2014 it cost the New Zealand health system approximately $20.2 million to provide general anaesthetic to 5050 children aged seven years and under to get one or more of their teeth removed in a public hospital.

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New Plymouth's Medicross Dental dentist Dr Adeel Punjwani said there was a trend of children not getting their annual checkup.

"It is important to go for regular checkups because if there is a problem we can diagnose those problems at an elementary stage so that we can treat the problem with predictable outcomes," he said.

Dr Punjwani said the aim of dental care should be to prolong the teeth not extract them.

"If you extract teeth before they were meant to be taken you definitely see dental problems when the person reaches adulthood," he said.

"Those problems ranges from crowding of teeth and chewing problems.

"For children under the age of 18, it is free to go to the dentist."

Public health officer Dr Jonathan Jarman said sugary drinks and hidden sugars were a major problem.

"As a nation we are eating far too much sugar," he said.

"Excessive sugar consumption is linked to obesity, type two diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, and premature ageing."

Jarman said in the past children only had fizzy drinks on special occasions.

"Some children are now having sugary drinks every day and we need to return to the days when sugary drinks are only given as special treats for children," he said.

"What I would like to see as a public health doctor is that fluoridated water and unflavoured milk become the preferred beverage options for New Zealand children."

 - Taranaki Daily News

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