Source: The Mercury, 17 January, 1997, p3
By KATE HANNON In CANBERRA AUSTRALIAN children lead the world in dental health. Australian Dental Associ- ation national executive direc- tor Rob Butler said the aver- age Australian 12-year-old child had exposed only one tooth to decay while two-fifths of 12-year-olds had not experi- enced any decay at all. "There's been some im- provement because there's flu- oride in toothpaste,improve- ment in the diet and people have generally better dental health," Dr Butler said. About two-thirds of Aust- ralians have been exposed to fluoridated water, which was introduced in 1953 at Bea- consfield in northern Tas- mania. Hobart was the first capital city to fluoridate its water supply in 1964. However, Queensland has lagged behind and its rate of tooth decay is considerably higher than other states. A new study has revealed children living in areas with- out fluoridated water suffer 55% more tooth decay than children who drink water con- taining fluoride. "Most of the major [Aust- ralian] centres are fluori- dated. It's mainly Queensland that has stood out and never done anything about it," Dr Butler said. While more than 65% of Australia's population areas have fluoridated drinking water, there are still areas, such as Brisbane, which do not despite clear scientific evidence demonstrating the benefits of fluoride. The study by four academics from the University of Ade- laide and the University of North Carolina in the US found that Brisbane children aged between five and 12 suffered up to 55% more tooth decay in their milk or baby teeth than children in Towns- ville, where there is fluoride in the drinking water. Children in Brisbane also experienced up to 65% more dental disease in their adult teeth than children in Townsville. Brisbane is the only Aust- ralian capital city where the drinking water is not fluori- dated. The study looked at the dental health of 18,000 chil- dren aged between five and 12 during 1991-92. They were life-time residents of either Brisbane or Townsville. Published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, the results re- affirmed the effectiveness of fluoride in preventing dental disease, the authors said.
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