Posted on 23rd September 2020
“Dental decay is the most common non-communicable disease in the world,” says Dr Fleur Creeper, committee member of the Oral Health Committee and spokesperson for the Australian Dental Association of Western Australia.
“It is expensive to treat, impacts quality of life and can cause hospitalisation. It is entirely preventable through relatively simple and cost-effective interventions. Therefore, global awareness campaigns such as WCFF Day are so important.”
Why are dental caries such a big deal?
“Dental caries is still, in 2020, the most common, preventable chronic disease world-wide,” Fleur says. “In Australia, we know from the 2020 Oral Health Tracker report card that 32.1% of adults have untreated tooth decay. Worryingly, this is an increase of 6.6% from 25.5% in 2004/2006.
“In children, 27.1% (2018 data) of 5- to 10-year-olds had untreated tooth decay in primary teeth,” she adds. “This also translated into 9.3 per 1,000 preventable hospitalisations due to dental conditions, which is a big deal.
“We know that poor oral health can lead to pain, discomfort and hospitalisation. It can affect employment, school attendance, impact on systemic health and significantly impact on quality of life.”
Who is at risk?
“Sugar consumption is a big part of the issue both here in Australia and globally. Dental caries does not develop in the absence of dietary sugars.
“It is easy to think that a little extra sugar here and there is not such a big deal, but the odds are a lot of us are taking in far more than we realise, especially in these times as more people are working from home, spending more time at home and snacking between meals.”
Fleur says figures show that the average Australian is consuming 14 teaspoons of sugar a day, a whole lot more than the maximum six teaspoons a day recommended by the WHO. Seventy per cent of children (aged 9-13 years) consume too much sugar.
“In addition, it sounds simple and repetitive but the key oral health messages of brushing and flossing are still not being heard. We know that only 53% of adults brush twice daily. And, of course, tap water should be encouraged as the drink of choice.”
This article first appeared in the October 2020 issue of the Western Articulator magazine.
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