Study to help fight tooth decay in children

tooth decay in children
Copyright: stopabox / 123RF Stock Photo

Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV) has announced its Australian-first study investigating the use of silver diamine fluoride to fight tooth decay and reduce dental hospitalisations in Victorian children. Silver diamine fluoride is a topical medicament that can be applied to a cavity to stop tooth decay and, in some cases, replace the need for a filling or crown.

DHSV will conduct a study with over 400 children aged between two and 10 who have dental cavities and are unable to cope with treatment in the dental clinic. Many of these children are from vulnerable communities and referred to The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne for surgery under dental general anaesthetic.

Led by paediatric dentist, Dr Rana Yawary, the trial will involve a groundbreaking protocol involving the application of silver diamine fluoride twice yearly to fight decay. It will be accompanied with oral health education, encouraging children to brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and to eat a healthy diet.

“This is a non-invasive and preventive approach that can be provided to communities most in need, and is a great alternative to general anaesthetic. Even the youngest children will be more cooperative because they learn that dental visits don’t have to be painful,” Dr Yawary said.

Tooth decay is the highest cause of preventable hospitalisations for children.

About 4,500 Victorians aged 0 to 14 years old are hospitalised every year due to dental conditions. More than half of Victorian children aged three to five have signs of tooth decay, and this figure is much worse for children of healthcare card holders, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and those from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Dr Yawary said researchers will treat and monitor children over a year to study how the approach impacts on dental cavities. They will also measure oral health-related quality of life and treatment satisfaction and acceptance. These results will be compared to those of children who are referred for general anaesthesia.

“If the trial is successful, it will change the way we manage tooth decay in young children and reduce oral health inequity for those that are in most need,” Dr Yawary said.

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