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More than 50% of all 6 year olds are affected by decay of their deciduous (baby) teeth, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, The Child Dental Health Surveys Australia, 2005 and 2006, presents information on the oral health of Australian children attending a school dental service (SDS) in 2005 and 2006. The findings are based on the results for 193,457 children aged from 4 to 15 in all states and territories except New South Wales and Victoria.

The average 6 year old child has just over two teeth affected by decay. However, the 10% of children this age with the most extensive history of deciduous tooth decay had about 8 deciduous teeth affected. This was almost 4 times higher than the national average for this age group.

Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory had the lowest levels of decay for baby teeth, while Queensland and the Northern Territory had the highest. Western Australia also had the lowest rate of decay among 12 year olds.

‘In both 6 year olds and 12 year olds, the experience of significant dental decay in children tends to be concentrated in a minority,’ said Professor Kaye Roberts-Thomson, of the AIHW’s Dental Statistics and Research Unit.

Slightly more than half of all 12 year olds are free from any decay of their permanent teeth.

‘However, when taking into account those who have several decayed teeth, the average 12 year old has at least one tooth affected by decay,’ Professor Roberts-Thomson said.

Among 12 year olds, the 10% of children with the most extensive history of decay in their permanent teeth had an average of almost 5 teeth affected by decay. This is about 4 times higher than the national average for 12 year olds.

The Child Dental Health Survey data has been collected since 1977. The 2005 and 2006 collection is the most recently available data. The 2007 survey data are scheduled to be released in early 2012, followed by the 2008 survey data.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 8 December 2011

Further information: Professor Kaye Roberts-Thomson, AIHW, tel. (08) 8313 5438, mob. 0439 840 870

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Full report: The Child Dental Health Surveys Australia, 2005 and 2006