Monday, 27 July 2015

Hong Kong's Teething Problems

Hong Kong children need to learn more about the importance of healthy teeth
For the most part Hong Kong people are very conscious about their appearance, washing their hands a lot and bathing. They use 220 litres of water per capita per day -- way above the global average of 130 litres per capita per day.

But you'd think that hygiene ritual would include dental care, but apparently not enough attention is focused on the teeth.

The University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Dentistry has found that two out of five children, or 37 percent of the 23,000 students in 125 kindergartens examined in the last academic year had dental cavities.

This averages out to 1.5 decayed teeth, 0.1 tooth less than two years ago. Although the overall prevalence rate of tooth decay in kindergarten pupils has dropped from 44 percent two years ago to 37 percent, Dr Chu Chun-hung, from the faculty's Community and Family Dentistry, said the situation warranted serious concern.

In the United States, the prevalence for tooth decay in children two to five years of age was 23 percent, and 18 percent in three-year-olds in Japan.

"The eruption of permanent teeth begins when they are six years old until 12. Decayed teeth could affect their learning at school, as there could be pain and fever," Chu said.

Those kids studying in Sham Shui Po, Wong Tai Sin and North District had more decayed teeth than average, around 1.9 to 2 teeth.

Dr Edward Lo Chin-man, chair professor in dental public health at HKU suggests this could be because of the parents' educational and wealth levels. He said some parents neglected the importance of cleaning the children's teeth because they think there are other more important things to look after.

Lo said the government should expand its dental care service from primary schools to kindergartens.

What's even more shocking is that in March, experts said more than 90 percent of five-year-olds in Hong Kong with cavities did not get treatment because their parents weren't aware of it, and that many patients didn't see a dentist until they were in their 50s or older.

This is such a bizarre observation considering most Hong Kong people are very conscientious about their grooming habits. But obviously they have not been taught, either by their parents or at school, about the importance of good dental care.

Having clean teeth and healthy gums also indicate the overall health of the individual, as some health problems can be detected by a dentist looking in someone's mouth.

But there are probably the usual fears of visiting the dentist and being scared of the pain, or concerns about the cost, but many Hong Kong people don't understand the benefits and the necessity of checking in with a dentist at least once a year.

As Lo says the government needs to educate people about how teeth in good condition are a sign of a healthy body, just like washing hands.

The MTR these days makes public announcements of how people should use a tissue when they sneeze, and wash their hands frequently. Maybe adding that people should brush their teeth twice a day and floss should be added...


  1. Wow, this is interesting. I work in a kindergarten, taught K1 last year, and not only did a teacher dedicated to health issues come to talk to the children about the importance of brushing their teeth but also the Cantonese teacher had lesson plans that focused on it. And there is also a song the children had to learn about hygiene which included brushing their teeth. And I think there was even a coloring competition revolving about proper dental care, kindergarten-wide.

    That being said, I often looked at some of those very same children and wondered if they had brushed their teeth recently. The same children whose uniforms were neat and tidy, their hair done up in fancy braids and and hair ornaments. So maybe the message isn't getting to their maids or parents.

    1. HI Diana! Great to hear from you! My cousin is in his early 20s and has terrible teeth unfortunately. It's not like his parents are financially strained -- they just don't know that he should have had a few teeth taken out and braces in his teens. I am just as flabbergasted as you are... a generation or two ago, dental care was not high on the priority list, but now there's not excuse for most people in Hong Kong...

  2. Yes, still stop in to check on your blog once in a while, but rarely feel I have something to contribute.

    Back to the subject, I have noticed many adults have dark colored teeth but I always attributed it to tea drinking. Part of me wishes I hadn't read this so I could continue on thinking that, because now I will wonder if they ever brush. 8)

    1. HI Diana

      The stains could be from tea, soy sauce, wine... I'm sure they brush but maybe not properly or don't get their teeth cleaned at the dentist's office regularly...