HUNTER dentists are seeing children as young as two who need painful dental work and are blaming parents for perpetuating bad attitudes and even worse habits.
Hunter New England Health dentists said they were treating infants with severe teeth cavities while other children had teeth rotted so badly they needed a general anaesthetic to get them out.
Yet they said they were struggling to get parents to improve their child’s eating habits or bring them back for cleanings and follow-up appointments. They warned parents about sending toddlers to bed with a bottle, which promoted decay.
Hunter New England Local Health Network figures show that children under 12 who needed general anaesthetic for teeth extractions in the past year needed on average five teeth removed.
Network oral health director Dr Lanny Chor said he and colleagues had seen children under age five who needed most of their teeth pulled out.
‘‘Their teeth have decayed to the extent that the tooth is unrestorable and that decaying root stumps need to be removed,’’ he said.
‘‘I often hear parents just say ‘oh he has weak teeth like me’, but the reality is that this is a largely preventable disease and that parents have to take responsibility.’’
Dr Chor said, while nearly two-thirds of children had no tooth decay, they still saw a significant number of children with the dental disease and the situation was not improving.
Dr Chor said toddlers should not be sent to bed with a bottle unless it was water and children should avoid frequent snacking, sweet drinks, flavoured milks and fruit juice to prevent decay.
He encouraged parents to ensure children used fluoride toothpaste, brushed before bed and drank plain tap water.
Elysia McCarney took her daughter Luca, 3, to the Greater Newcastle Community Health Centre in February for her first dental appointment and was given the all clear.
‘‘Looking after teeth is important,’’ Ms McCarney said.
* 62.9% of five- and six-year-old children in the Hunter had no decay
* Children under 12 who needed a general anaesthetic in the region on average had five teeth removed
Source: Hunter New England Local Health Network and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare