Crowning decay in young children

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Dental Health Services Victoria is examining painless ways to halt decay
Dental Health Services Victoria is examining painless ways to halt decay

In an Australian-first, Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV) is investigating a painless method of treating tooth decay in young children.

A research team led by Professor Hanny Calache is conducting a pilot study using stainless steel caps (also known as stainless steel crowns) to seal decay in young children’s teeth without using a needle or a drill. Sealing tooth decay stops it from getting worse.

“We believe this technique can make a real difference,” Prof Calache, a pediatric dentist said. He said children do not experience any discomfort during the procedure, it takes less than 15 minutes to complete and can be provided at a reasonable cost.

Stainless steel crowns have been in use for more than 60 years, but this is the first time in Australia that they have been investigated to seal tooth decay in pre-school aged children. Known as the Hall Technique, the method has been tested in Scotland in primary school aged children with much success over a five year period.

Prof Calache, Director of Clinical Leadership, Education and Research at DHSV, said unfortunately it was not unusual for very young children to suffer decay in their first teeth.

He said this problem was usually managed in hospital under a general anesthetic at a cost of at least $9 million dollars a year for Victorian children.

Dr Deborah Cole, the Chief Executive Officer of DHSV, said preventing dental decay was a priority as it was the most preventable cause of hospital admissions in young children in Victoria. She said tooth decay was one of Victoria’s most prevalent health problems, with more than half of all children affected.

If shown to be successful this technique, combined with appropriate preventive care, could significantly reduce the need for children to be hospitalised for the management of tooth decay.

The stainless steel crown is fitted over a toddler’s tooth and remains there until the tooth falls out naturally. By completely covering the decay, the crown prevents existing decay from progressing and new decay from developing on another part of the tooth, therefore preventing further problems, such as abscesses.

“The beauty of this is that the baby tooth treated in this way is unlikely to require further treatment after the crown is put in place and the crowned tooth functions just like an unaffected tooth,” Prof Calache said.

Dr Cole said DHSV was passionate about improving Victoria’s oral health and ensuring greater levels of access and higher quality service.

“We believe that use of stainless steel crowns in this way has a lot of potential to make a real difference to young Victorians.”

 

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