30-year trends show improvement in Aussie kids’ oral health

Australian children’s oral health has improved markedly over the last 30 years, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Child Dental Health Survey Australia 2007: 30-year trends in child oral health, describes the oral health status of Australian children examined by school dental service staff in 2007. The report also examines long term trends to 2007.

‘The good news is that between 1977 and the mid-1990s, the average number of deciduous (baby) teeth affected by caries halved in children aged 6,’ said Professor Kaye Roberts‑Thomson of the AIHW’s Dental Statistics and Research Unit.

Caries in the permanent teeth of children aged 12 declined even more dramatically—in 1993, children aged 12 had less than one-quarter the number of teeth affected by caries than in 1977.

‘However, in both age groups, the average number of caries has increased slightly since the mid-1990s,’ Professor Roberts-Thomson said.

In 2007, just under half (46%) of children aged 6 attending school dental services had a history of decay in their baby teeth—that is, at least one decayed, missing or filled tooth, and on average, children aged 6 had about two decayed, missing or filled teeth. In contrast, one-tenth of children aged 6 with the most extensive history of tooth decay had almost 10 baby teeth affected—over 5 times the national average.

‘Among older children, 39% and 60% of children aged 12 and 15 respectively had some history of decay in their permanent teeth. The average number of teeth affected was one for 12 year olds and two for those aged 15. Again, the one-tenth of 12–15 year olds with the most extensive history of tooth decay had much higher numbers of teeth affected, with between 5.2 and 8.6 permanent teeth affected. This was more than 4 times the national average for those age groups,’ Professor Roberts-Thomson said.

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, 25 May 2012

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