Oral care has come a long way, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, research shows that there’s still a lot of room for improvement. There are ads and campaigns everywhere reminding us to brush twice a day, floss as often as we can, and keep the sugar content down. But these don’t seem to be achieving the results that we need. It might come as a shock to know that 53 per cent of adults only brush their teeth once a day. On top of that, 48 per cent of adults are consuming too much sugar – a combination that is wreaking havoc. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in Australia, and these numbers show us why.
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) has decided to use Dental Health Week, August 3 – 9, to shine a light on why sugar is so bad for our teeth. The ‘Get Sugar Savvy’ campaign aims to reinforce the importance of brushing, flossing, and taking charge of your oral hygiene by understanding the effects of sugar and trying to consume less of it. Dr Mikaela Chinotti, ADA’s Oral Health Promoter, says,
“We’re urging people to observe three key messages when it comes to sugar: consume no more than 6 teaspoons/24 grams of added sugar a day; choose foods with 5 grams or less per 100 grams of the food it’s in, and look out for hidden sugars in the food and drink you buy.”
“…brush for two minutes every morning and night, floss daily and see your dentist regularly. They can detect oral diseases at their earliest stage and help to prevent them from progressing – prevention is better than a cure.”
Teenagers and Sugar
Sugar – it’s delicious, we know. But Aussie teenagers are consuming over 20 teaspoons of the stuff a day. That’s THREE TIMES the World Health Organisation’s recommended limit. The culprit? Unsurprisingly, sugary beverages. It can be difficult to know just how much sugar you’re actually drinking but that’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the labels. Energy drinks, soft drinks, fruit juice, sports drinks, even mixed drinks of alcohol (we’re talking about cans of ready-to-drink mixes) can have shocking amounts of sugar in them.
One 600ml of soft drink contains 16 teaspoons of sugar on average. That’s already over twice the recommended daily sugar amount for adults!
For parents, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what your teen is drinking. We know that as they grow up you begin to provide them with more and more freedom, and if they have a job then they can buy their own food and drinks. But with all that freedom comes the responsibility of taking care of yourself. If they don’t seem to be doing it, you should step in and kindly remind them how important it is to really care about the health of their teeth.
Kids and Sugar
Only half of Australian children aged five to six years have actually visited the dentist before the age of five. One third have had tooth decay by this age already.
Australian Dental Association recommends that your kids have their very first dental visit when the first teeth erupt into the mouth, or by the age of one years old. Leaving a child’s first dental visit until later increases the risk that they will need treatment beyond just a regular check up and clean. Additionally, only milk and water should be put into a feeding bottle, and snacks should be healthy. And of course, try not to give your child many sugary treats, no matter how much they enjoy them.
It’s important to lead by example and make sure your child is brushing their teeth for long enough, often enough. They can then go on to take great care of their teeth as a teenager and adult, preventing infections, decay, and all the negative results neglecting oral hygiene.
Don’t have a regular dentist or one who’s nearby? No problem – the ADA’s Find a Dentist (ada.org.au/findadentist) and Choosing a Dentist (ada.org.au/choosingadentist) make it so easy.
Great ADA Resources for You
Read the Label
Here you can gain a better understanding of how to break down a label so it is easy to understand and how natural vs unnatural sugar can affect your teeth.
Sugar can actually be called over 50 different names, making it harder to notice on food and drink labels. Find out what the common names for sugars and what to look out for on the Hidden Sugars fact sheet.
Sugar vs Teeth
Having trouble understanding how sugar can result in tooth decay? You can learn more about it on the Sugar and its effects on teeth Fact Sheet.