North Coast faces tooth loss problem

By MEGAN KINNINMENT

A NSW HEALTH report has named the North Coast as one of the two worst areas in the State for tooth loss.

The NSW Health Survey shows 9 per cent of the North Coast population over the age of 16 have lost their natural teeth ? higher than the State average of 6.3 per cent.

The report also says North Coast women have an even greater tooth loss rate, with 11 per cent having reported losing their natural teeth.

President of the NSW branch of the Australian Dental Association, Dr Chris Wilson, said the figures reflected an ageing population and an under-funded public health system.

"It is very difficult for older people on a limited income on the North Coast to afford access dental treatment," Dr Wilson said.

"The public health system is so overtaxed and under-funded."

Removing teeth is often the only option available through the public health system ? when more expensive treatment could have saved the teeth.

"NSW spends less per capita on dental health than any other State," Dr Wilson said.

His advice to North Coast residents was to try and budget for dental work, saying it would cost less in the long-run to have teeth repaired early on than replacing them later.

"Early treatment is cheaper than having teeth removed and replaced with full dentures," Dr Wilson said.

"Dentures are not forever. They have to be checked every five years and often replaced after 10 years."

The higher rate of tooth loss for women could be put down to social factors, Dr Wilson said.

Older-generation women had often been lulled into having their teeth removed and replaced with dentures quite early in their life, or had chosen the option for cosmetic reasons.

Many older people have also missed out on fluoridated water, which could also account for the higher rates of tooth loss, Dr Wilson said.



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