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30 Nov 2011 | Australasian Dental Practice

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Tiny teeth in tatters

Grants

The tiny teeth of Australian toddlers are rotting and dental researchers at the University of Sydney are poised to start a long-term study to find out why.


The study "Infant Feeding including Breastfeeding, and Early Childhood Food and Beverage Intake: Relationships with Early Childhood Caries and Obesity" received funding in the latest rounds of National Health and Medical Research Council grants.

Led by Dr Amit Arora from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Dentistry, the two-year study, which commences next year, will investigate the relationship between breastfeeding, bottle feeding, food and beverage intake, dental health and obesity in young children.

Dr Arora, a lecturer in Oral Health, says dental decay and obesity in early childhood continues to be a significant health concern in Australian children.

"The Child Dental Health Survey of Australia reported that 45% of 5-year-olds had one or more decayed or missing teeth and 10 percent of those children examined were found to have more than seven decayed teeth. Also 40 percent of the 5-6-year-olds who participated in the survey had up to 5 missing or decayed teeth," Dr Arora said.

Data from the Centre for Oral Health Strategy indicates that despite water fluoridation, dental caries remain a major public health problem particularly in disadvantaged areas.

"This is a huge burden of disease, when one considers there are only 20 baby teeth in the whole mouth of a child," Dr Arora said.

"From previous research, we have unfortunately found that the incidence of decay in small children is disproportionately higher in children from lower socio-economic groups.

"This can have an overwhelming impact on the children and their families in terms of its effect on their growth, development, nutrition, ability to socialise and function well at school."

Previous research has suggested there may be an association between dental caries and obesity in early childhood as they share common risk factors, mainly diet. But only few longitudinal research studies into the common origins of dental caries and obesity have been conducted.

Dr Arora says the project will start at the infant phase and will research a child's diet and dental hygiene through to the age of three.

While it is widely recognised that breastfeeding provides terrific nutrition for babies and has been generally considered to be protective against obesity, on demand breastfeeding has been associated with poorer oral health outcomes.

"We are aiming to provide evidence of the relationships between feeding, oral hygiene practices and physical activity for children aged between 0 and 36 months," says Dr Arora.

One of the first of its kind, the results from the cohort study will provide longitudinal evidence in Australian children and the association between breastfeeding and oral health and between obesity and dental caries.

This is a joint venture between the Universities of Sydney, Adelaide and Flinders in Australia and Oregon Health and Science University in the United States; Sydney South West Local Health Network; NSW Health; Australian Lactation Consultants Association and a major research institution in the United States.

NHMRC Project Grants for funding commencing in 2012
Dental projects that received funding in the latest round of NHMRC funding included:

Dr Amit AroraInfant Feeding including Breastfeeding, and Early Childhood Food and Beverage Intake: Relationships with Early Childhood Caries and ObesityUniversity of Sydney$240,000.00
Prof. Anthony BlinkhornPhase 2 Clinical Trial of a Program delivered by Aboriginal Health Workers to Prevent Early Childhood Caries in Aboriginal ChildrenUniversity of Sydney$530,359.00
Dr Ajesh GeorgeImproving maternal and infant outcomes: A multicentre randomized controlled trial of midwifery and dental interventionUniversity of Western Sydney$443,510.00
Prof. Peter CistulliMultimodel phenotyping to predict oral appliance treatment outcome in obstructive sleep apnoeaUniversity of Sydney$507,963.00
Prof. Eric ReynoldsA multi-protein vaccine targeting the oral pathogens associated with chronic periodontitisUniversity of Melbourne$693,375.00
Prof. Mark BartoldHow are periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis inter-related?University of Adelaide$544,261.00
A/Prof. Neil O'Brien-SimpsonDefining the role of innate T cells in the onset and progression of Chronic PeriodontitisUniversity of Melbourne$562,260.00

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