Everyday Dr Marilyn Owen works on children with aggressive dental decay. Many of them are less than 12 months old.
Last week, she treated a one-year-old who needed to go under general anesthetic because their decay process was so severe.
Before that, she saw a child who couldn't chew an apple because they were in so much pain.
Other children she treats can't sleep and have trouble concentrating at school - all because of dental decay.
These cases are not uncommon, and sadly they are becoming more prevalent. Dental decay is one of the primary conditions affecting Tasmanian children. It is also one of the leading causes of hospitalisations.
Tasmania's only pediatric dental specialist, Dr Owen treats children with conditions outside the scope of dentists or oral health therapists.
With preventative care at the forefront of her work, she said it was time to recognise how integral dental health is to a person's overall health and wellbeing.
"I think when we realise the impact oral health has on general health, we need to stop and think about it beyond just a cavity," she said.
"A healthy mouth is a healthy body. We shouldn't be trying to separate one from the other.
"We know there is a relationship between poor oral health and conditions like heart attacks and diabetes - just because of the amount of bacteria that is in the mouth.
"It all starts very young and it can set you on the wrong track for the rest of your life, which is very disturbing."
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2016-17 about 70,200 hospitalisations for dental conditions may have been prevented with earlier treatment.
Children aged between five and 10 also have on average one-and-a-half decayed, missing or filled teeth. For young adults it rises to four-and-a-half and for those aged 75 and over, it's more than 24.
While oral health deteriorates with age, Dr Owen said there was still many misconceptions around taking care of your teeth early on.
"People think - oh they are only baby teeth, the will just lose them anyway," she said.
"But the evidence shows that children who present with decay in their baby teeth, are the ones who continue to have poorer outcomes throughout the rest of their life. It's the strongest predictor.
"Further, the quality of life for children is very compromised by extensive decay and infections in their mouth.
"That affects their general growth and development, their ability to concentrate on their schoolwork, their ability to sleep and rest, to eat the right foods."
Oral health refers to the condition of a person's teeth and gums, as well as the health of muscles and bones in the mouth.
One of the biggest contributors to poor oral health, particularly among children and young adults, is consuming too much sugar.
According to the Australian Dental Association, about 65 per cent of Australians haven't seen a dentist in the past two years, while 50 per cent only brush their teeth once a day.
A further 40 per cent never floss and for young people aged between 14 and 18, more than 70 per cent are drinking too much sugar.
Dr Owen said while some messages around improving oral health were being adhered to, behavioural factors such as diet continued to have the biggest impact.
"The messages are fairly simple, but I guess in the context of decay being driven predominately by behavioural factors - these factors are hard to change and diet is a big player," she said.
"We can focus on brushing, which is critical and obviously a big part of the jigsaw puzzle, but a bigger part of it is the intake of sugar - which is rising in children.
"So you have the obesity issue, but then there is also the decay issue as well. It's all linked.
"The amount and the frequency of sugar consumption - the more common snacking patterns we know children are engaging in more these days."
Dr Owen said in a time when it was cheaper to buy soft drink than bottled water, along with an increased consumption in processed food, rates of decay would continue to increase.
"It is a real issue and I think there is a little bit of complacency among parents of this generation - with all due respect," she said.
"We were the generation where the decay rate in Australia dropped to an all-time low. Unfortunately, that trend has been reversing since the late 90s.
It's been rapidly increasing, among children especially.
"So unfortunately if we do continue on this trajectory, we have obesity risks and also increased risks of decay. It's very concerning."
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