Issue

Vol 133 No 1518: 17 July 2020

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Issue Summary

Article
SUMMARY

Severe early childhood caries: a modern (neglected) epidemic?

A recent series in the Lancet argued that oral health carries a large societal burden and radical action is needed. Part of this radical action is a re-thinking of the primary healthcare importance and integration of oral health service delivery. Fundamental to this is understanding the epidemiology and promoting evidence-based preventive strategies. This paper is deliberately designed and written for the New Zealand Medical Journal to bring Canterbury children’s oral health to the forefront of a wider New Zealand readership, demonstrate the current considerable inequalities, and urge us to rethink the status quo both locally and nationally. Looking at the most recent available data, we observed that: 1) Severe early childhood caries rates in Canterbury’s is high—at nearly one in five children. 2) Rates in our Pacific children (40.1%) and Māori children (26.2%) are sadly much higher—and likely reflect social determinants of health inequities (such as poverty) between children rather than intrinsic cultural differences. 3) One in 20 of these children also required teeth extraction(s). 4) These come at considerable individual and societal costs, and have long-term consequences. 5) Despite the best efforts of many over a long period of time, too many children continue to suffer from a heavy oral health burden. If we wish to valve our children’s oral health, then radical action is indeed required.

Article
SUMMARY

Severe early childhood caries: a modern (neglected) epidemic?

A recent series in the Lancet argued that oral health carries a large societal burden and radical action is needed. Part of this radical action is a re-thinking of the primary healthcare importance and integration of oral health service delivery. Fundamental to this is understanding the epidemiology and promoting evidence-based preventive strategies. This paper is deliberately designed and written for the New Zealand Medical Journal to bring Canterbury children’s oral health to the forefront of a wider New Zealand readership, demonstrate the current considerable inequalities, and urge us to rethink the status quo both locally and nationally. Looking at the most recent available data, we observed that: 1) Severe early childhood caries rates in Canterbury’s is high—at nearly one in five children. 2) Rates in our Pacific children (40.1%) and Māori children (26.2%) are sadly much higher—and likely reflect social determinants of health inequities (such as poverty) between children rather than intrinsic cultural differences. 3) One in 20 of these children also required teeth extraction(s). 4) These come at considerable individual and societal costs, and have long-term consequences. 5) Despite the best efforts of many over a long period of time, too many children continue to suffer from a heavy oral health burden. If we wish to valve our children’s oral health, then radical action is indeed required.