Bay kids lose 1500 teeth to de­cay

Te Puke Times - - NEWS - By CAR­MEN HALL

About 1500 rot­ten teeth were pulled from the mouths of Bay chil­dren last year.

Ex­perts say poverty, a lack of den­tal ther­a­pists and poor par­ent­ing are to blame for the high num­ber of ex­trac­tions.

They say more pre­ven­ta­tive ed­u­ca­tion is needed and Tau­ranga’s wa­ter needs to be flu­o­ri­dated to com­bat the fact 50 per cent of 5-year-olds are start­ing school with fill­ings or de­cay.

Fig­ures re­leased to the Bay of Plenty Times un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act from the Bay of Plenty Dis­trict Health Board show about 1500 teeth were ex­tracted in 2017 from 1200 chil­dren aged 0 to 13 be­cause of de­cay.

Data re­vealed 300 ex­trac­tions had to be done un­der gen­eral anaes­thetic and tooth de­cay was one of the most com­mon rea­sons for chil­dren’s ad­mis­sions to its hos­pi­tals.

Qual­ity and pa­tient safety man­ager Deb­bie Brown said tack­ling the range of fac­tors that con­trib­uted to high rates of de­cay was com­plex.

“We know the con­di­tions that kids are born into for ex­am­ple so­cio-de­mo­graphic sta­tus, in­come, ed­u­ca­tion, knowl­edge, po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment has an im­pact on their health and well­be­ing. Not all fam­i­lies and whanau have the same op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“There was an ap­par­ent so­cial gra­di­ent [eq­uity gap] ev­i­dent in oral health, with the heav­i­est bur­den of poor oral health on our Ma¯ori and Pa­cific chil­dren, and those chil­dren who also ex­pe­ri­ence the most de­pri­va­tion in our re­gion,” Brown said.

NZ Den­tal and Oral Health Ther­a­pists As­so­ci­a­tion chair­per­son Ar­ish Naresh said den­tal ther­a­pists were strug­gling to cope with de­mand.

More re­sources were needed to fo­cus on pre­ven­tion and in­te­grate with other health and so­cial ser­vices, he said.

Some parts of the coun­try were op­er­at­ing evening and week­end clin­ics to in­crease ac­cess he said.

“Like ev­ery other non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­ease, 80 per cent of it was in 20 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

“The chil­dren hav­ing high lev­els of de­cay are more likely to come from low-in­come fam­i­lies and ex­pe­ri­ence other health is­sues such as rheumatic fever due to poor hous­ing, di­a­betes and obe­sity due to poor nu­tri­tion,” Naresh said.

NZ Den­tal As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Dr Bill O’Con­nor said chil­dren re­lied on their par­ents to make healthy choices.

“They don’t choose what their par­ents let them eat and drink, and they don’t choose if their par­ents bring them along for treat­ment.”

Some chil­dren were fall­ing through the cracks, and there was a se­vere short­age of oral health ther­a­pists, he said.

“Some def­i­nitely come into the sys­tem at age 13 with lots of work need­ing to be done.

“They seemed to have slipped through the sys­tem or have not had the treat­ment needed.

“But hav­ing said that, the vast ma­jor­ity of kids are very well treated by the sys­tem. Those at the bot­tom of the sta­tis­tics are the re­ally dif­fi­cult ones.”

Across the coun­try, 36,000 teeth were ex­tracted from chil­dren last year, he said.

“They have al­ready got the holes in their teeth, so our con­cern is why are they not be­ing seen this year to get those cav­i­ties treated and filled rather than be­ing seen next year when its too late and they have to get them ex­tracted.”

The as­so­ci­a­tion was a strong ad­vo­cate for com­mu­nity wa­ter flu­o­ri­da­tion “which re­duces de­cay by up to 40 per cent”, he said.

On De­cem­ber 7, 1992, flu­o­ride stopped be­ing added to the Tau­ranga wa­ter sup­ply stopped fol­low­ing a ref­er­en­dum which di­vided the city.

Ngai Te Rangi chief ex­ec­u­tive Paroa Stan­ley said it was easy to point the fin­ger at vul­ner­a­ble, low­in­come fam­i­lies but a lot of de­ci­sions that could make a dif­fer­ence “were out of the hands of the per­son in the street”.

Flu­o­ri­da­tion and a tax on sug­ary drinks were cru­cial is­sues, he said. Stan­ley agreed par­ents had a big a role to play, but for some Ma¯ori fam­i­lies, it was about ac­cess, af­ford­abil­ity and a cul­tural change.

“Hor­rific” was how he de­scribed the state of the teeth of some young peo­ple aged 16 and over who had left school and at­tended Ngai Te Rangi’s free af­ter-hours, youth mo­bile doc­tor’s clinic which had been op­er­at­ing for more than 10 years.

“Once they stop go­ing to school they stop all th­ese other ser­vices and very few of them are en­gaged with den­tal ser­vices, so they have grown into par­ents with the same at­ti­tudes.”

In the fu­ture, Stan­ley hoped Ngai Te Rangi could op­er­ate a free mo­bile den­tal clinic.

A Min­istry of Health spokes­woman said the Com­mu­nity Oral Health Ser­vice pro­vided by DHBs re­ceived $116 mil­lion ad­di­tional cap­i­tal fund­ing to build new fixed and mo­bile den­tal fa­cil­i­ties in the 2006 Bud­get. An­other $32m was al­lo­cated per year to fo­cus on fam­ily/wha¯nau in­volve­ment, health ed­u­ca­tion for self-care and early in­ter­ven­tion.

There had been sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in child oral health for all pop­u­la­tion groups since the rein­vest­ment, she said.

The per­cent­age of 5-year-old chil­dren in Bay of Plenty who are free of tooth de­cay had in­creased from 44 per cent in 2007 to 51 per cent in 2016, while the av­er­age de­cayed, miss­ing or filled teeth per school Year 8 child in Bay of Plenty has re­duced from 2.44 to 1.39.

Den­tal ther­a­pists are strug­gling to cope with the de­mand for treat­ment in the Bay of Plenty.

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