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Holes in dental hygiene for a third of Aussie kids

Alexandra Middleton, October 18, 2021 7:00PM Kids News

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7-year-old Ella Kosinski brushes her teeth twice a day. The survey found two-thirds of Australian children brushed twice or more times a day and the average age of starting to brush teeth with fluoridated toothpaste was 24 months. Picture: Jason Edwards media_camera7-year-old Ella Kosinski brushes her teeth twice a day. The survey found two-thirds of Australian children brushed twice or more times a day and the average age of starting to brush teeth with fluoridated toothpaste was 24 months. Picture: Jason Edwards

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Only two-thirds of Australian children brush their teeth twice a day, according to data collected by a national survey.

The Australian National Child Oral Health Survey examined children aged five to 14 years old and found 69 per cent brushed their teeth at least twice a day.

Male children were less consistent* with tooth brushing than females but the likelihood of brushing twice a day increased with age.

Griffith University senior research fellow Dr Santosh Tadakamadla said there were a number of reasons for a third of Australian children not practising basic dental hygiene*.

“This could be due to a lack of understanding about the importance of tooth brushing, lack of time and lack of established* morning routines for tooth brushing, particularly among those belonging to lower socio-economic* status*,” he said.

Children putting toothpaste on toothbrush in bathroom at camera media_cameraWe need to brush our teeth morning and night for good oral hygiene. Picture: iStock

After recently analysing* the survey data, which was collected between 2012 and 2014, researchers from Griffith University’s school of medicine and dentistry concluded* the likelihood of a child brushing their teeth twice or more a day depended on the family’s socio-economic status.

Children living in families with an income of more than $120,000 and having a parent who was born overseas were more likely to brush their teeth twice or more a day than those who weren’t.

Those living in households with two children were also more likely to clean their teeth at least twice a day, compared to those in single child households.

The data found children with one caregiver born overseas started brushing their teeth later than those with Australian-born caregivers.

Children living in high income and educated households with two or more children started brushing their teeth at an earlier age.

media_cameraBrushing twice a day means you will get top marks on your next visit to the dentist. Picture: iStock

Children with a health welfare* card tended to delay the start of tooth brushing by more than a month, compared to those without welfare cards.

On average, Australian children started brushing their teeth with fluoridated* toothpaste at the age of two.

Seven-year-old Ella Kosinksi, from Essendon in Victoria, told the Herald Sun she always brushed her teeth twice a day.

Mum Belinda said it was an important part of her daughter’s daily routine.

While the survey data was representative of a cross-section of Australian school-aged children, Dr Tadakamadla said tooth brushing habits may have changed in recent years.

“There is a need for another wave of national child oral health study,” he said.

GLOSSARY

  • consistent: done the same way over time
  • hygiene: series of practices for cleanliness and health
  • established: accepted, known, traditional,
  • socio-economic: interaction of social and economic factors
  • status: rank, position, level, standing
  • analysing: studying, examining, inspecting
  • concluded: determined, found, deduced
  • welfare: here referring to state or government assistance
  • fluoridated: has been treated with traces of fluoride

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What percentage of children aged five to 14 were found to brush twice a day?
  2. Were male or female children less consistent in their brushing habits?
  3. Between which years was the survey conducted?
  4. On average, at what age do Australian children begin using fluoridated toothpaste?
  5. Were children living in households with two or more children more or less likely to brush twice a day?

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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Teeth brushing chart
Work with the classmate beside you and throw around some ideas about how you could encourage brushing, or what would make you brush your own teeth more regularly and at least twice a day? It might be a scare tactic such as an evil-looking child with rotten teeth, or more like a reward system once you do a week in a row etc.

Design a teeth-brushing chart to incorporate your ideas and where kids can tick off each time they brush to make it part of their morning and nightly routine.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
This research was conducted seven to nine years ago. If they re-did this study, what differences do you think they may find? Do you think children might be brushing more regularly now or less due to different reasons? Discuss with a friend and note down your key points.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Health and Physical Education, Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
I Spy Nouns
Nouns are places, names (of people and objects), and time (months or days of the week).

How many nouns can you find in the article? Can you sort them into places, names and time?

Pick three nouns and add an adjective (describing word) to the nouns.

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