The Age article 2007

scanned image of Age article 2007

Toddler Dental Disgrace

Global Child Dental Health Taskforce

(Published in 2007, USA)

The US arm of the Global Children’s Dental Health Taskforce this week announces a new initiative to improve the oral health of America’s toddlers and preschoolers. The initiative responds to a new federal report showing that the number of toddlers and preschoolers in the U.S. who have experienced tooth decay has risen to 28 percent – and to far higher levels among poor and minority children.

The federal report showed a 17 percent increase in tooth decay in the primary (baby) teeth of children aged 2 to 5 years – to 28 percent in 1999–2004 from 24 percent in 1988–1994, according to Taskforce Chairman, Dr Burton Edelstein of the Children’s Dental Health Project and Columbia University. The study also found that 74 percent of 2 to 11 year old children who have experienced tooth decay have unfilled cavities.

“Tooth decay remains the single most common chronic disease of children in the U.S. – five times more common than asthma,” noted pediatrician David Krol, Taskforce Member and Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Toledo College of Medicine. “It is an insidious disease that starts early and can devastate children’s mouths long before they start school,” he added. “What these statistics mean is that too many children suffer from preventable dental disease,” according to Taskforce Member Steven Kess, Vice President of Henry Schein, an international healthcare product distribution company.

The US Taskforce will focus its work on opportunities to help pregnant women and new mothers safeguard their children’s oral health. The taskforce also plans to develop model proposals for local cavity-prevention demonstrations in lower-income communities in Baltimore Maryland, Los Angeles California, Toledo Ohio, and at a Native American health services site,” according to Dr. Burton Edelstein, coordinator of the U.S. effort and Chair of the Children’s Dental Health Project, a Washington D.C. policy organization that promotes children’s oral health.

The US Taskforce is one of nine, country-wide efforts dedicated to eradicating tooth decay in children worldwide by 2026. Participating countries represent over half of the world’s child population and also include Australia, Brazil, China, India, Mexico, The Philippines, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia. It is an informal group of leaders from federal health programs, health professional associations, industry, and education who have come together in support of the global effort. Strategies include health education, fluorides, dental sealants, sugar reduction in schools, access to dental care, leadership development, and advocacy.

The US Taskforce efforts are guided by Healthy People 2010 objectives that call for reducing childhood decay experience and expanding dental services. The Taskforce promotes strategies that were developed by the US Surgeon General’s Workshop on Children and Oral Health in 2000. These include increasing public awareness about the importance of early childhood oral health, using science-based strategies, integrating oral health into other childhood programs and medical care, promoting public policies, and assuring services for all children.

“The decision by the US component of our Global Taskforce to focus on young children holds tremendous promise for better quality of life among millions of US children,” said Global Taskforce coordinator Professor Raman Bedi of Kings College in London. “Early childhood tooth decay worldwide too often sets children up for dental pain and infection that has consequences for their learning readiness, ability to eat, sleep, and experience the normal activities of childhood.”

The Global Taskforce was established in 2006 after 40 senior dental advisors and chief dental officers called for its formation at the European Union Presidency meeting in England in September 2005. It is supported by the government of the UK in affiliation with the World Health Organization and Colgate-Palmolive.

Colgate-Palmolive’s support for the effort was announced one-year ago by its President and CEO, Ian Cook, “as Colgate-Palmolive’s 200th anniversary gift to children worldwide,” according to Dr. Marsha Butler, Colgate-Palmolive Vice President for Global Oral Care and Professional Relations. “We are committed to this effort and providing essential international support to the Global Taskforce over the first five year start-up of this dynamic effort,” she added.