Tooth loss looms for many

SAGE ADVICE: Ballarat dentist Ian Harper called on parents to start taking their children to dental checkups from the age of two so they familiarise themselves with proper healthcare before treatment is needed. Picture: Kate Healy
SAGE ADVICE: Ballarat dentist Ian Harper called on parents to start taking their children to dental checkups from the age of two so they familiarise themselves with proper healthcare before treatment is needed. Picture: Kate Healy

Ballarat teenagers in the public health system have on average more than five decayed, missing or filled teeth by the time they’re 17, new data shows. 

The Dental Health Services Victoria report – compiled to compare oral health in the City of Ballarat to other council areas – makes for unsettling reading and has taken dentists by surprise.

It found the average Ballarat teenager aged 13-17 who accessed public dental services between 2014-16 had almost six damaged or missing teeth, which was far greater than the Victorian average of three decayed teeth.

Ballarat Community Health officer Demelza Diacogiorgis said this rot could lead to wider problems in later life.

“Poor oral health is significantly associated with major chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases, stroke, obesity and adverse pregnancy outcomes,” she said.

For Ballarat adults it was not much better, with middle-aged residents having on average 16 damaged teeth, compared to a statewide average of 12.

Despite this, more than 45 per cent of Ballarat adults rated their dental health as “excellent/very good” and 41 per cent as “good/fair”. 

Ballarat-based dentist Ian Harper said the findings were surprising, especially for the younger cohort.

“My perception was that it was improving in young people, but you can’t argue with statistics,” he said.

“Prevention is the best form of cure.

“Parents should bring kids to the dentist from age two to familiarise themselves with one before they really need it.”

The Dental Health Services Victoria survey found 56 per cent of Ballarat residents do not eat enough fruit and vegetables and up to 20 per cent drink a can of soft drink daily.

Ballarat MP and opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King called on families to sign up to the child dental benefits scheme.

To be eligible a child must be aged between 2-17 and be receiving or in a family who receives certain government payments such as family tax benefit part A, youth allowance or disability support pension.

Prevention is the best form of cure. Parents should bring kids to the dentist from age two to familiarise themselves with one before they really need it

Ballarat dentist Ian Harper