Poor habits causing tooth decay in kids

There is concern poor oral hygiene habits learnt from an early age is setting kids up for a lifetime of painful tooth decay.

Water is best, tap water even better when it comes to protecting teeth, parents have been reminded following the release of worrying new figures on the state of kids teeth and oral health habits in Australia.

The latest Royal Children's Hospital National Poll found one in three Australian children do not brush their teeth twice a day and one-third of preschoolers have never seen a dentist.

By early primary school, one in four children needed a tooth filling and one in ten required a tooth pulled out because of decay. About one in 20 required a hospital visit to treat a decayed tooth.

Paediatrician Dr Anthea Rhodes says infrequent tooth-brushing, few dental visits, bottled water and sugar-laden diets are all combining to set children up for a lifetime of painful dental problems.

"We know that in Australia that tooth decay in children is on the rise and it's in fact the most common cause of preventable hospital stays in children under 15, so we did expect that there might be some worrying findings but what we didn't anticipate was just how poor the habits are in many homes across Australia when it comes to looking after kids' teeth," said Dr Rhodes.

The poll of 2000 parents, representing 4000 children, was conducted in January to provide information on what parents understand about oral health.

Despite 85 per cent of parents knowing fruit juice is a sugary drink that can cause tooth decay, one in four children drank sugary drinks most days a week.

Almost half (48 per cent) of parents, however, did not know that tap water, which contains fluoride, is better than bottle water when it comes to protecting teeth.

And a majority of parents were not aware that a child's first dental check-up should occur at around 12 months of age, while one in three did not know that babies need their teeth cleaned every day.

Many parents were also unaware that putting a baby to bed with a bottle at night is strongly linked to tooth decay, said Dr Rhodes.

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