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Tackling Children’s Dental Care Problems

Team Approach To Tackling Children’s Dental Care Problems

In response to the nationwide problem of tooth decay in young children, two Canterbury healthcare providers have joined forces in a prevention project that is a New Zealand first.

Pegasus Health family practices and the School and Community Dental Service are collaborating in a project to promote dental hygiene and awareness of the signs of tooth decay in young children.

"The problems we are seeing around the country in dental health for young children have driven this worthwhile project" says School and Community Dental Service Manager, Sue Dasler.

The School Dental Service is equipping Pegasus family doctors and practice nurses with a ŒLift the Lip¹ handbook to help identify early signs of tooth decay.

In addition, free toothbrushes, designed especially for small mouths, are being given away to all 15 month old children who visit a Pegasus family practice team for their 15 month immunisation and check up. Pegasus Health hopes that the soft toothbrushes will help to promote good dental hygiene from an early age.

Some of the signs of early tooth decay include chalky patches, white and brown spots on the teeth, particularly along the gum line.

"Some people don¹t realise how important milk teeth (first teeth) are for children and the need to look after them properly," says Pegasus family doctor Mike Glen.

"Baby teeth do matter - the long term health of a child¹s teeth and gums depends on care from an early age. We¹re hoping that giving toothbrushes to 15 month olds will drive home that message."

"Lifting the lip to check children¹s teeth is easy and can be done by parents as well as family doctors and practice nurses," says Sue Dasler.

Sue Dasler says the family practice is an ideal environment to contact parents and caregivers about all aspects of toddler's health and to encourage enrolment with the School and Community Dental Service. Enrolling preschoolers early means good oral hygiene habits can be encouraged and problems detected earlier.

"Your family doctor can also advise on diet, which is a major cause of decay in young children¹s teeth."

"Prevention is always better than cure and involving other health professionals in identifying dental problems at an early stage is a great way to spread the message to the whole community," says Ms Dasler.

For further information: Susi Allison or Gerard Blank Glass Tower 03 365 1455 or 025 303 050


_ Tooth decay or cavities are terms for rotting teeth, in infants this is called Early Childhood Caries (ECC).

_ The first teeth affected by ECC in infants are the four upper front teeth.

_ The first sign of ECC is white spots on the surface of the teeth, usually near the gums.

_ Next, the spots on the teeth affected by ECC turn a yellow brown colour, and eventually the tooth gets dark brown or black stains.

_ Parents should regularly check their childís teeth for signs of ECC, at least once a month.

_ Lifting the top lip up means a parent can get a good look at a childís teeth, looking for any white spots, especially near the gum line.

_ If spots are detected, you should visit your dentist as soon as possible to get treatment to stop further damage.

_ There are a number of factors that contribute to the decay of teeth, one of the major factors is sugar which leads to demineralisation of teeth.

_ Sweet fruit drinks given to children is another factor causing ECC, parents should try to wean their child off these drinks, by diluting the drink with water.

_ Fluoride helps to prevent ECC; children should brush their teeth with a soft brush and small amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day as soon as the first milk teeth start coming through.

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