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Skycity Helps In Pre-School Health Issue

2 August 2004

Skycity Helps In Fight Against Major Pre-School Health Issue

Preschoolers in the Counties Manukau region have some of the poorest dental health.

Every year 555 children in Counties Manukau are admitted to hospital to have badly decayed teeth removed under general anaesthetic and 350 of those children are under the age of five.

A group of health providers - Kidz First Community Health, the Auckland Regional Dental Service and local primary health organisations Procare Manukau, Total Health Otara and Ta Pasifica - has started a project to raise awareness of the importance of good oral health for children.

Dr Alan Simpson, community paediatrician and clinical head of Kidz First Community Health, says the problem is a failure of prevention. "There seems to be a perception that dental health isn't as important as other aspects of health. And there seems to be a lot of misinformation about what you need to do to prevent dental caries [decay], because it is a preventable disease."

Dental decay has three causes: infectious bugs in the mouth, not cleaning teeth and constant sipping on sugary drinks. Dr Simpson says sharing drinks and spoons can transmit infection. Babies shouldn't be put down with sugary drinks in a bottle, including fruit juice and milk, and he suggests using sipper cups - bottles can sit in the mouth and drip onto the teeth, and it's the duration that the liquid sits in the mouth that is the problem. And of course children's teeth should be brushed regularly as soon as the baby teeth appear.

"There is almost an assumption that your baby teeth don't matter and in fact there's a lot of things that can happen as a result of having your primary teeth infected," says Dr Simpson.

If someone has decayed primary teeth they are much more likely to have decay in their secondary teeth. Also if primary teeth have been taken out or damaged, the adult teeth often come through misaligned, which can affect self-esteem and cause speech problems.

"Dentists are taking out five, 10, and not uncommonly taking all 20 primary teeth out in three-and four-year-olds. Pretty dramatic stuff and traumatic for small children," says Dr Simpson.

The project is spreading the message through primary care. Checking dental health is being integrated into Well Child visits, free health checks for children up to the age of five, so children in need of dental attention can be referred to dental therapists.

SKYCITY Auckland, a major sponsor of Kidz First Children's Hospital, is also supporting the project. The company has funded a dental health awareness advertising campaign - the 'SKYCITY Smile' Campaign, which was launched Sunday 1 August. The SKYCITY Auckland Community Trust has also funded the purchase of a new mobile dental caravan, dedicated to Counties Manukau, which will be in operation from mid August.

SKYCITY General Manager Communications Megan McSweeney says that SKYCITY's advertising campaign and mobile dental caravan initiatives support the company's ongoing relationship with Kidz First Children's Hospital and Counties Manukau District Health Board.

"As a prominent Auckland community member, SKYCITY recognises the importance of major health and welfare initiatives. We trust that by assisting the health providers to get these messages out to parents and caregivers, we can help make a difference" says Ms McSweeney. In addition to the SKYCITY Smile Campaign and the dental caravan, SKYCITY is producing a series of dental health education activities, written by the Auckland College of Education, for local teachers and a community health campaign to raise awareness of dental health. The advertising campaign will incorporate an 0800 number (0800 SKYCITY SMILE) people can call to receive a brochure about caring for children's teeth.

Since beginning its sponsorship of Kidz First Children's Hospital in 2000, SKYCITY Auckland has run several campaigns to support community health initiatives including burn prevention and treatment campaigns. The SKYCITY Auckland Community Trust has also supported several Counties Manukau District Health Board projects.

ENDS

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