Toronto— For thousands of Canadian preschoolers, going to the dentist doesn't mean a short visit to a clinic for a minor cavity, but going under general anesthesia for extensive dental surgery in hospital.
About 19,000 Canadian children aged one to five end up in the hospital each year because they have multiple cavities and tooth decay so severe that it requires surgical treatment, says a report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), released Thursday.
In fact, about one-third of all day-surgery operations for preschoolers—who still have their baby teeth—are done to perform substantial dental work. That figure does not even capture children who are waiting for surgery or those who had their dental work done in a clinic.
"These children are under anesthesia for 86 minutes on average, so they have severe dental problems," said Anne McFarlane, CIHI vice-president for Western Canada and developmental initiatives. "What happens (during surgery) is a combination of teeth getting filled and teeth being extracted."
The CIHI study found rates for dental day surgery among young children varied by province and territory and depended on the makeup of the population and where kids live. Income level also appears to play a role, with dental surgery rates for kids in poorer neighborhoods almost four times higher than for peers in more affluent areas. As well, three times more rural than urban children had day surgery for serious tooth decay.