Let’s keep building on improvements in children’s oral health

Health Minister David Clark says he’s pleased the sustained investment in children’s oral health begun under the last Labour Government is paying off.

“Oral Health Day today is a great time to acknowledge the work begun by former Health Minister and dental nurse Hon Annette King who initiated a major overhaul of the Community Oral Health Service,” David Clark said.

Over that time the proportion of children free of tooth decay at age five has increased from 51% to 60%. For those aged 12 to 13 the improvement is even better, going from 47% to 65%.

“Each healthy tooth we have is a jewel. It’s fantastic that more of our children are growing up free from painful tooth decay.

“However there is more work to do. The improvement among Māori and Pasifika children, while good, does not match the gains among other children.”

The Ministry is working with District Health Boards to grow the proportion of pre-school children enrolled and receiving publicly-funded care from the Community Oral Health Service. They are also working to keep them enrolled until age 18.

“This is important not just for the sake of our kids now but for their future. Evidence shows that oral health at age 5 predicts oral health at age 26.

“We know there is unmet need for oral healthcare among adult New Zealanders. Working on the  oral health of our tamariki now is one way we can reduce that unmet need over time.”

In the meantime, we can all act to improve our own oral health and that of our whanau.

This year for Oral Health Day, the Dental Association are asking New Zealanders to give up sugary drinks and consume only water during November.

Those who register for the challenge go into a draw to win high-tech blue tooth equipped toothbrushes while schools can win sports equipment, cash and a visit from Olympic pole vaulter Eliza McCartney.
Background:

Since Budget 2006 a major Government reinvestment programme has provided $116 million for DHBs to build new fixed and mobile dental facilities for the COHS. 
  
An additional $32 million each year in operating funding for the DHBs' Community Oral Health Service supports the improved model of care with a focus on preventative tooth care.  

In the ten years to 2017 the severity of decay (the average number of decayed, missing and filled teeth (DMFT) per child) has reduced from an average of 2.27 to 1.76 affected teeth per child at age five, and from an average of 1.53 to 0.77 affected teeth per child at school year 8 (12-13 years of age). 

For Māori five-year-olds, the number of decayed, missing and filled teeth has reduced from an average of 3.67 to 2.81 teeth per child at age five, and from 2.31 to 1.18 teeth per child at school year 8. 

Pacific children have demonstrated a reduction from an average of 3.85 to 3.16 DMFT per child at age five, and from 1.79 to 1.11 at school year 8.