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Smile Week 2 – 8 May 2004 ‘Treat your mouth right’

3 May 2004

Smile Week 2 – 8 May 2004 ‘Treat your mouth right’

Next week is “Smile Week” a week dedicated to great teeth and oral health.

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s adolescent oral health coordinator, Julie McLeod, said a great smile was an asset for life, and well worth spending ten minutes a day to keep your smile looking great.

“With free dental care for children aged from two and a half years of age, right through until they’re 18, there are plenty of opportunities for people to have their oral health checked and maintained.

“It’s up to parents and caregivers to enrol their teenage children with a dentist once they leave intermediate,” Julie said. “Dentists are contracted to provide free care for all high school students,” she said. “Feedback from dentists suggests there are many young people missing out on this free care once they get to high school, simply because they haven’t been enrolled with a dentist.

“If anyone wants information on how to go about enrolling their high-school aged child, they can contact Julie McLeod, adolescent oral health coordinator, phone 834 1815.

Julie said anecdotal reports of teenagers with significant dental decay were not uncommon. “As high school children gain more independence, and pocket money, there is a definite link between an increased intake of junk-food and fizzy drinks and tooth decay.

“One Hawke’s Bay dentist reports having to do up to 12 fillings on a teenager who hadn’t been for a check-up for one year. Others report the adverse effects of teens addicted to energy drinks. One dentist treated a teenager whose teeth were rotting away at the gums – the result of a five-can-a-day addiction to an energy drink.

HBDHB board member and dentist, David Marshall, said the estimated enrolment rate of teenagers was around 60%. “That means 40% of high school aged children are missing out on free dental care. There are dentists ready and waiting to see these children, and it’s a crying shame to see them turn up as an emergency case with violent toothache when they’re 20, and having to extract permanent teeth. I had a case recently where a 20 year old hadn’t been to a dentist since leaving primary school,” Dr Marshall said.

Julie McLeod said if people choose to eat sugary drinks, foods and snacks, they should be eaten at mealtimes, and teeth should be cleaned after meals. Chewing sugar-free gum was also a good way to reduce the risk of dental decay.

“Dental decay is caused by the action of acids on tooth enamel. Acids are produced by sugars in the diet and bacteria that break down tooth enamel and cause decay. The focus for Smile Week is eating and drinking well and treating your mouth right…and that includes regular cleaning, flossing and check-ups,” Julie McLeod said.


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