Lockdown takes its toll on dental health

ADA - Dr Kathleen Matthews at the ADA offices in St Leonards Sydney. (Narrative Post/Matthias Engesser)

Central Coast residents are being urged to protect their oral health during the extended lockdown, with new figures revealing thousands of local patients are waiting for affordable dental care and more than 1,000 potentially preventable hospitalisations for dental conditions in the region every year.

“The evidence shows when we’re stuck at home we reach for biscuits, chocolates and other sugary treats that are bad for our teeth,” Australian Dental Association NSW (ADA NSW) President, Dr Kathleen Matthews, said.

“About two-thirds of Australians said they were snacking more and about one in three reported increasing binge-eating, including items high in sugar.

“Sugary treats are fine in moderation, but too much sugar contributes significantly to tooth decay.

“Snacking on high sugar and high fat foods not only increases the risk of tooth decay, it increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

“Good health and well-being starts with what you put in your mouth.

“Lockdown is a stressful period for us all but reaching for healthy foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables rather than lollies and cakes will make sure your teeth don’t suffer.”

Matthews said during lockdown, NSW dentists are limited to the provision of either essential or urgent/emergency dental care only, depending on their location.

“This increases the need for us to care for our teeth at this time,” she said.

“In addition, latest NSW Health data has shown there are almost 10,000 adults currently waiting for public dental treatment in the Central Coast Local Health District, with many patients potentially waiting months for treatment.

“Even if lockdowns hopefully end soon, with public dental health chronically underfunded in Australia and thousands of patients waiting months for affordable treatment, caring for your teeth will continue to be vitally important.

“There (are) about 1,200 potentially preventable hospitalisations for dental conditions across the Central Coast every year, showing what can happen when oral health deteriorates.

“The leading cause of preventable hospitalisation in Australian children is dental diseases.

“About 26,000 kids a year are hospitalised for dental conditions in Australia and tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in childhood.”

ADA NSW provides the following tips for oral health: if you’re snacking while at home, swap lollies for healthier options like fruit and vegetables; nuts and carrot and celery sticks are tooth-friendlier options than chocolate and biscuits; some sports and soft drinks can contain as much as 16 teaspoons of sugar – stick to tap water instead; and brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss each night before going to bed.

ADA NSW is the peak body representing dentists and dental students in NSW and the ACT, with 4,600 members.

Media release, Aug 31