Children in Australia have better oral health than children in many other countries, due largely to fluoridated water, says a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
'At any given age, in both baby teeth and permanent teeth, children who live in areas with optimal fluoridated water have less tooth decay than those from areas with low fluoride levels,' said Mr Jason Armfield of the AIHW's Dental Research and Statistics Unit.
'These differences in disease experience between fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas were as high as 66% for seven year olds,' Mr Armfield said.
Optimal water fluoridation was associated with better dental health for both five to six year-old and 11 to 12 year old children regardless of the socioeconomic status of the area in which the children lived.
The report, Water Fluoridation and children's dental health: The Child Dental Health Survey, Australia 2002, found that compared to children in other countries, Australian 12 year olds have the seventh lowest average number of decayed, missing and filled permanent teeth.
'Although Australians are doing well in the world stakes, locally, oral health problems in children are still evident,' Mr Armfield said.
In 2002, over 47% of six year olds had cavities in their baby teeth. On average, for every six year old child in Australia there were approximately two decayed, missing or filled baby teeth.
At the same time, over 42% of 12-year-olds had cavities in their permanent teeth. For every 12 year old in Australia, there was approximately one decayed, missing or filled permanent tooth.
Levels of dental decay in children varied around Australia with the average number of decayed, missing or filled deciduous teeth (five to six year-olds) highest in Queensland and the Northern Territory and lowest in Western Australia and South Australia.
The number of decayed, missing or filled permanent teeth in 12 year olds was highest for the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Tasmania and lowest for South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Variations by state and territory reflect underlying population levels of disease as well as differences in the targeting of services.
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