Most Australian children engage in oral health behaviours that are in line with Australian guidelines on the use of fluoride products, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Dental health behaviours among children 2002-2004: the use of fluoride toothpaste, fluoride tablets and drops, and fluoride mouthrinse, presents the results of a study of almost 17,500 children aged 5-15 from Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
‘The study found that 99% of children brushed their teeth with toothpaste, with more than two-thirds brushing the recommended 2 times per day,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Jason Armfield.
‘More than one-quarter of children brushed only once a day and 5% of children brushed less than once a day.
‘Nearly all children brushed with fluoride toothpaste.’
Fluoride is known to be effective at enhancing mineralisation and reducing dental decay when teeth are exposed to it. While community water fluoridation is one of the main sources of fluoride for Australians, the home application of fluoride to the teeth is also an important way to help improve dental health.
Differences in tooth brushing behaviours and use of other fluoride products were seen across family income, parental education and residence remoteness groups.
‘Compared to those from lower income families, children from higher income families brushed their teeth more often, were more likely to be using a recommended children’s toothpaste at a younger age, and were more likely to use small amounts of toothpaste as recommended,’ Dr Armfield said.
Only about 10% of children had ever used fluoride tablets or drops, with most using them for less than 3 years.
As most urban centres in Australia have fluoridated tap water, the use of fluoride tablets and drops was predominantly in rural areas.
A low percentage of children used fluoride mouthrinse and its use was more common among older children. Among all age groups, the use of fluoride mouthrinse tended to be infrequent.
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.