Smile

Amanda Sofia Pellenz – Unsplash

Dental Health Week kicks off today with some alarming statistics about what’s happening with the teeth of Australians.

The latest progress report of the Australian Dental Association’s Adult Oral Health Tracker shows that both tooth decay and gum disease are on the rise as COVID-19 bites.

It seems people are avoiding the dentist due to social distancing concerns, and job losses have also meant many Australians are spending less on their health and more time at home eating sugary treats, presumably in an effort to feel better.

Although adults are keeping their teeth longer than they did in the past, one in three Australians has untreated tooth decay, and one in four has periodontal disease.

Needs improvement

The ADA’s Oral Health Promoter Dr Mikaela Chinotti said, ‘The Oral Health Tracker 2020 is a progress report that provides an update on how Australian adult oral health is tracking compared to the previous results in 2018 and against the targets set for 2025.

‘The results are in, and for gum disease and tooth decay, they’re not good. These conditions are largely preventable, yet they’ve increased in prevalence and we continue to get further away from our goal of improving Australia’s oral health.

‘Covid-19 is only making this worse. We’re anticipating a spike in the number of tooth decay and other oral health issues to emerge once the pandemic is over,’ Dr Chinotti said.

Dr Mikaela Chinotti ADA Oral Health Advisor – photo supplied

Key negative findings of the report include:

  • the number of adults with untreated and potentially painful tooth decay has increased from a quarter to around a third of adults (25.5% to 32.1%)
  • adults with periodontal pockets (≥4mm) which can cause tooth loss, went from 19.8% to 28.8%
  • adults reporting toothache in the previous 12 months went up from 16.2% to 20.2%
  • just under half (48.8%) of adults surveyed had visited a dentist for a check-up in the last 12 months, a drop of 6.7% since 2018
  • only 53% of us are brushing twice a day

and in good news:

  • Australians are keeping their teeth for longer, with the number of adults with fewer than 21 teeth dropping from 15.5% to 10.2%
  • rates of adult oral cancers have remained almost static at 10.3 people per 100,000

Sugar

Dr Chinotti said. ‘For many Australians, free sugar consumption is still well above the WHO’s recommended 6 teaspoons (24 grams) a day limit and this is affecting quality of life by causing tooth decay.

‘Not only do individual behaviours need to change, but so too do government policies affecting oral health,’ Dr Chinotti added.

Throughout 2020 the ADA is executing a number of strategies in a bid to improve Australia’s oral health by putting a spotlight on sugar.

Measures include lobbying the government to create a levy on sugar-sweetened beverages, educating people about the harm sugar does to teeth, helping consumers better interpret food labels and understand where hidden sugars lurk.

‘Given the findings, we’re asking Australians to make their oral health a priority even during the pandemic,’ said Dr Chinotti.

Steve Buissine – Pixabay

Love your dentist

Dr Chinotti emphasised that dental practices are safer than ever, with use of hand sanitisers and mouth rinse, questions about recent travel movements, and dentists all wearing full protective equipment.

In the Byron Bay area, customers are spoilt for choice when it comes to dental care, with options including not only holistic dentists Dr Jon Veranese and Casuarina Dental, Brunswick Holistic Dental  and eco-dentist Bytes of Byron Dental, but also National Dental Care and Omeara Dental.