This is the first study of dental injury done in Ontario, says David Locker, a professor with the U of T Faculty of Dentistry. Similar studies have been done in other countries because tooth trauma is considered one of the most severe conditions children can experience. "Once you break an anterior tooth, you carry that with you for life," says Locker. "Although it can be treated, there's a likelihood you'll need to repeat that treatment every 10 years. The cost of initial treatment can be quite high, depending on the injury, and the lifetime cost is estimated to be as high as $250,000 for four teeth."
Locker and his research team examined a random sample of 14-year-olds in schools served by six Ontario public health departments: Durham region, Halton region, Hamilton, Simcoe County, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph and York region. Overall, 18.5 per cent of the teens - almost one in five - showed evidence of tooth damage; six per cent exhibited severe damage with teeth broken or knocked out. They also found that youth who had problems with cavities also tended to have tooth injuries.
The team's next task is to determine the causes of the teen tooth trauma, including such potential culprits as hockey injuries and family violence, and where the injuries take place. "We want to determine how many of these injuries are preventable and how we can prevent them," says Locker. His research appears in the January/February issue of the Canadian Journal of Public Health.
A grant from the Ontario Ministry of Health helped support the study.