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Calls for tooth decay warnings on soft drinks

31 January, 2013

Researchers from the University of Adelaide say any health warnings about soft drinks should include the risk of tooth decay, following a new study that looks at the consumption of sweet drinks and fluoridated water by Australian children.

"There is growing scrutiny on sweet drinks, especially soft drinks, because of a range of detrimental health effects on adults and children," Dr Jason Armfield from the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health at the University of Adelaide's School of Dentistry, said.

"Tooth decay carries with it significant physical, social and health implications, and we believe the risk of tooth decay should be included in any warnings relating to sweet drinks."

Dr Armfield is the lead author of a new study published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, which looks at the consumption of sweet drinks and fluoridated water by more than 16,800 Australian children.

The study found that: 56 per cent of Australian children aged 5-16 years consumed at least one sugared drink per day; 13 per cent of children consumed three or more sugared drinks on average per day; boys consume more sweet drinks than girls; children from the lowest income families consumed almost 60 per cent more sugared drinks; the number of decayed, missing and filled deciduous (or baby) teeth was 46 per cent higher among children who consumed three or more sweet drinks per day, compared with children who did not consume sweet drinks.

"Consistent evidence has shown that the high acidity of many sweetened drinks, particularly soft drinks and sports drinks, can be a factor in dental erosion, as well as the sugar itself contributing to tooth decay," Dr Armfield said.

"Our study also showed that greater exposure to fluoridated water significantly reduces the association between children's sweet drink consumption and tooth decay. This reconfirms the benefits of community water fluoridation for oral health.

"Essentially, we need to ensure that children are exposed less to sweet drinks and have greater access to drink fluoridated water, which will result in significantly improved dental outcomes for children.

"If health authorities decide that warnings are needed for sweet drinks, the risk to dental health should be included. This action, in addition to increasing the access to fluoridated water, would benefit children's teeth greatly.

"Such information would raise further awareness of the impact of sweet drinks on children's teeth, especially among parents who need to make healthy choices for their children."

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Dr Maurice White | Sunday, February 10, 2013, 8:07 PM
The Supertooth NDK Project congratulates Dr Armfield for raising the risk of tooth decay should be included in any warnings relating to sweet drinks to help end decay, our most common disease affecting over 11million Australians each year. However we need heath ministers to initiate a review of oral health promotion to improve all aspects of personal tooth care that is evidence based to reduce acid demineralisation and increase saliva and fluoride remineralisation every day to prevent tooth decay. Oral ill health costs Australia over 7.6 billion a year and there are long waiting lists for treatment that many cannot afford. Over 80% of cavities occur ( 90% for children) from acid demineralisation inside pits and fissures on chewing surfaces where food is forced under chewing pressure and any carbohydrate like sugar is changed to acid that brushing, saliva and fluoride have no access to clean, neutralise acid and remineralise tooth like on easy to reach surfaces where few cavities occur. Please contact your state and federal health minsters to initiate a review of tooth care advice that is evidence based to prevent DK. Simple things like chewing carbohydrate free food like cheese, nuts etc., before meals or snacks help reduce access for food that may be carbohydrate rich and reduce acid demineralisation. Flossing or cleaning food from between teeth after eating helps better saliva access to dilute any carbohydrate, neutralise acid and remineralise tooth like on easy to reach surfaces where few cavities occur. Chewing fibre like celery after eating forces saliva inside trapped food especially inside pits and fissures. Sugarless gum is somewhat effective but cannot absorb and expel saliva and force it inside trapped food as well as celery. New technology needs to be assessed as well so why wait years to end decay when evidence tells us that our most common disease for over a century can be prevented now.