Through a series of short plays, hands-on activities and sing-a-longs, and under the guidance of their Convenor, Prof Jeroen Kroon, students from Griffith University’s School of Dentistry and Oral Health have been visiting local preschools since 2013 to promote oral health practices and help establish good oral hygiene habits in kids from an early age.
The interactive and fun classes assist these children to look after their teeth and gums as well as providing the dental students themselves with valuable learning experience in community-based oral health education and forms part of their course requirements.
A variety of schools across the Gold Coast participate in the program each year and approximately 400 children were reached in 2016 in schools at Coombabah, Biggera Waters and Musgrave Hill.
Education – the key to good oral health
Studies have shown that behaviour modification and modulation in young children is easier to achieve than in adults and educating and promoting the importance of oral health to preschool children will help them adopt good habits at an early age.
Promoting good oral health practices in schools helps raise awareness, not just in the children who attend the presentation in the classroom but also their teachers and parents.
According to Prof Kroon, children across Australia are most at risk of developing oral health diseases, such as cavities and gum disease, from an early age. In particular, children aged 5-6 years old are at the transitional stage of moving from dependence on their parents to a stage where they are starting to practise their own oral health care. These young and impressionable minds are exposed to environments on a daily basis where they are making choices on what foods they would like to eat, many of which are not ‘tooth-friendly’, especially given the vast amounts of advertising they are exposed to.
Dental statistics in Australia
- Of the 34 democratic governments that comprise the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Australia is ranked second overall for children’s oral health (National Advisory Committee on Oral Health, 2004). Since the mid-1990s, the experience of tooth decay among Queensland children aged 5-6 years averages over 2 affected teeth (Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health 2014). It was reported in 2007 that 60% of all 5-6yr olds had cavitated carious lesions, of which 71% of 5-year-olds and 62% of 6-year-olds had untreated, active lesions (Mejia, GC et al. 2012).
- Young children, particularly those in the low socioeconomic groups, have the highest rates of preventable hospitalisations arising from dental conditions. It was reported in 2011-2012 that 13,503 children aged 5-9 years old were admitted to hospital as a result of dental conditions (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014). Acute, preventable, hospital admissions are costly and where expenditure can be allocated to specific disease groups, spending on oral health is secondary only to cardiovascular disease. The majority of costs associated with oral health care commonly fall to the individual. In 2011-2012 it was reported that 57% of the total cost of dental care was covered by the patient (Oral Health Monitoring Group 2015). Since 1 January 2014 the Australian Government provided access to benefits for basic dental services to children aged 2-17 years of age under the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS).
- According to hospital data, 42% of patients treated for dental trauma were children younger than 6 years old (Casey et al. 2010). For these children it is vital to address the importance of prevention and immediate action in the case of these traumas.
- 79% of dental traumas involved permanent teeth.
Free dental checks for new patients
At our world-class student dental clinic, all new patients are eligible for a free dental screening including x-rays. For more information go to: