The Caries Epidemic

Tooth decay is a chronic infectious preventable bacterial disease . It is 5 times more common than asthma , and affects individuals of all ages, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds

The shocking statistics are that in Australia, as many as 50% of 6 year olds have at least 2 cavities and 10% have 9 or more holes in their teeth

There are more children admitted to hospital for dental treatment under general anaesthetic than for any other procedure.

We need to increase the understanding in the community that dental caries is a disease. It is chronic and infectious.

It is caused by a bacterial film on teeth in an unfriendly environment which leads to dissolving the tooth mineral and in time a cavity. These cavities are symptoms of the disease.

At Brisbane Paediatric Dentistry, we approach dental decay from a medical model. We don’t just drill and fill. Our approach is to firstly look at the risk factors present which may predispose your child to tooth decay, and work with you to modify these so your child can be cavity free.

In summary, by assessing the risk factors, our aim is to:

  • control the disease process before cavities appear
  • predict the likelihood of future caries
  • prevent future decay by managing the risk factors

The principal bacteria implicated in the tooth decay process is known as Streptococcus Mutans. At birth, a baby’s mouth does not have these harmful bacteria. Unfortunately, the bacteria are picked up mainly from primary carers (this is usually Mum) and also siblings and other children.

How bacteria is transmitted

Bacteria passes from mother to baby by transfer of saliva. To avoid the chance of transferring decay causing bacteria to your baby’s mouth it is necessary to limit the transfer of saliva. This means don’t share cups, cutlery, water bottles or toothbrushes. This goes for older brothers and sisters also, don’t let them put things that have been in their mouth in your baby’s mouth.

Mothers who have active decay or have had a filling in the last 12 months are at risk of passing on this decay causing bacteria to their babies.

Risk Factors

  • Children with high S Mutans counts
  • Children with special needs
  • Medically compromised or taking medication that decrease saliva
  • Children whose parents or siblings have decay
  • Children who have visible white spots, decay, or plaque
  • Parents with low health literacy
  • Children with defective enamel
  • Irregular dental visits
  • Inadequate fluoride
  • Poor feeding habits