48% of Australian children get cavities before the age of 5

Wednesday, 14 June 2017
48% of Australian children get cavities before the age of 5

Did you know that 48% of Australian children get cavities before the age of 5? And for many children the situation can be far worse than a few fillings. At Inspiro we are seeing more and more children with advanced tooth decay. Many of these children are needing major tooth work such as complete tooth removal and crowns, often requiring anaesthesia and costing parents many thousands of dollars.

Read about one of our staff's children who had 11 holes in her teeth at only 4 years of age.

Smiles 4 Miles is a free program for children

Inspiro’s Smiles 4 Miles initiative is a free program implemented in early childhood services to improve the oral health of pre-school aged children and their families. Smiles 4 Miles was developed by Dental Health Services Victoria in response to the alarming rates of tooth decay experienced by young children in Victoria. 

The program utilises a wide-ranging approach by engaging children, their families, educators, staff, management and the broader community to improve children’s health and hygiene. Smiles 4 Miles has three key messages; Drink well (water), Eat well (healthy nutritious foods) and Clean well (clean teeth). 

To reinforce these key messages Smiles 4 Miles puts in place healthy eating and oral hygiene policies at preschools and incorporates the key messages of healthy eating, drinking and brushing into the curriculum so the children can learn important health messages in a fun and age appropriate way.  



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Inspiro’s dietitians and dentists give training sessions to school educators                  Inspiro dietitian talks about children teeth cavities and teeth problems

Inspiro’s dietitians and dentists give training sessions to school educators and teachers on sugar sweetened beverages and similarly problematic teeth decaying foods and provide information on nutrition and dental hygiene; this enables educators to reach the school children under their care. 

We engage the families, provide resources, tips and tricks on healthy snacks and budgeting. We also provide tooth brushes and toothpaste, conduct dental screening for children and link in children to Inspiro’s dental services which are free and prioritised for children from 0 to 12 years of age and free for children from 12 – 17 if they hold a government concession card and/or have CDBS funds.

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Toby Ware from Inspiro who works with educators and Inspiro staff in the implementation of the Smiles 4 Miles program said; “Our focus is on educating teachers and staff on how much hidden sugar there is in most processed and packaged foods brought to school in lunchboxes, often marketed as healthy. For instance, many fruit flavoured and “lite” yoghurts contain more sugar per gram than ice cream and almost an entire RDI (recommended daily intake) for an adult, let alone a child in a 120gram serving/normal size tub. Other examples are fruit straps (roll ups), muesli bars, flavoured milks and fruit juices.”

Some lite yoghurts have more sugar per gram than ice cream!

48% of Australian children get cavities before the age of 5

The Smiles 4 Miles mission is not only to prevent cavities and advanced tooth decay in young children, but also to help to avoid negative child dental experiences by preventing tooth decay at an early age, meaning that children have a more positive experience at the dentist and develop a relationship with their dentist from a young age. 

The goal of the program

The program’s primary purposes are to prevent and reduce dental cavities and tooth decay, reduce obesity, reduce consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, create supportive environments for health by instilling healthy habits in young people and their families and establish relationships with dentists early to avoid more extreme tooth decay and to remove fear by normalising a dental visit from an early age.

Some young children need special dental care

A summary of the Smiles 4 Miles program 

• Children complete an early childhood survey  
• Educators participate in a Smiles 4 Miles training session 
• Inspiro develops or reviews a healthy eating and oral health policy 
• Promote the Drink well, Eat Well key messages  
• Conduct learning experiences around the key messages 
• Engage families around the key messages 
• Provide families with information regarding dental services and healthy eating initiatives 

Benefits of participating in Smiles 4 Miles 

• Support from an Inspiro Smiles 4 Miles coordinator 
• Establishment of healthy foundations for children and families, improving their oral health and 
overall health and wellbeing 
• Access to resources and support from health professionals experienced in promoting 
children’s oral health  
• Assistance to meet the requirements of the National Quality Standard 
• Assistance to meet the requirements of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development  
• Assistance to work towards meeting the Healthy Eating and Oral Health benchmark for the 
Achievement Program. 

For more information and to get your school involved contact:

Toby Ware, Inspiro Community Health Service 
9738 8862 


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