Child tooth decay

Tooth decay in toddlers is a particular problem on P.E.I., says the CIHI report. (Courtesy Dr. Bob Schroth)

Tooth decay is the number one reason children aged one to five require surgery, says a new report, and it is a particular problem on P.E.I.

The report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows nearly 100 P.E.I. pre-schoolers undergo day surgery every year because of severe tooth decay.

The problem is completely preventable with routine oral hygiene, and visits to the dentist, said  Dr. Brian Barrett, executive director of the Dental Association of P.E.I. He said dentists are trying to work with government to improve early screening.

"For the public health nurses to at least remind parents when they come in for their checkups with the new babies," said Barrett.

Rate of surgery for cavities in children aged 1 to 5

Canada: 12.5 per 1,000

P.E.I.: 16.3 per 1,000

"You know, 'By the way has the little one been out to have the dentist take a look at her teeth?' Or even if, at the time, if the public health nurse could take a quick look around."

The Canadian Dental Association recommends kids see a dentist by their first birthday. P.E.I.'s dental coverage doesn't begin until a child turns three.

Barrett said it doesn't have to be a dentist, as long as someone looks at a toddler's teeth for signs of decay.

The CIHI report said virtually all of the children in the study underwent general anesthesia as part of their day surgery.

The study showed particular patterns of children at risk.

The incidence rate in rural areas was roughly three times higher than in cities, four times higher in the poorest versus the most affluent neighbourhoods, and almost nine times higher in neighbourhoods that had high Aboriginal populations.

The study looked at a 24 month period from 2010 to 2012. In that time, 189 Island children in the age range had day surgery.