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Switch to Water campaign targets New Zealand’s soft-drink consumption habits

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Choosing to drink water over soft drink is an essential step in maintaining good oral health. (Photograph: CROX/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

By Dental Tribune International

二. 8 十一月 2016

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand: Each year, the typical New Zealander drinks 115 litres of soft drink on average. This alarmingly high level of consumption can lead to tooth decay, as well as obesity and associated health problems. As part of its annual oral health awareness campaign, the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) is urging people to forgo these sweetened beverages and switch to water for the month of November.

Frequent consumption of sugary drinks can often have a deleterious effect on oral health. With 29,000 New Zealand children having had one or more teeth removed owing to tooth decay in 2015, the need for greater emphasis on good dental hygiene practices is clear. NZDA CEO Dr David Crum noted that dentists throughout New Zealand witness first-hand the consequences of sweetened beverages every day. “The sugar and acid in fizzy drinks—even the ‘diet’ versions, energy drinks and fruit juices can destroy our teeth, leaving us needing expensive fillings or with gaps where healthy teeth should be,” said Crum.

“As dentists, we would rather work to prevent this than try to repair the damage it causes,” he added.

Former national netball player Irene van Dyk is now the National Oral Health Day ambassador and said that the Switch to Water challenge is a simple yet effective way of demonstrating the benefits of drinking water. “The everyday drink of choice that’s best for both our bodies and our teeth is the drink that’s cheapest and feely available—water. Certainly during my time as a sportsperson it was really important to stay well hydrated and water is, quite simply, the best way to do that,” she said.

The negative side-effects of sugary drinks on dental health are widespread. A 2015 study published in the Australian Dental Journal on consumption of sweetened beverages by teenagers from New South Wales concluded that drinking two or more glasses of sugary drinks per day led to a significant increase in dental caries. Similarly, a study in the Scientific Reports journal from earlier this year investigated the premature loss of teeth in Mexican schoolchildren. It found a clear link between tooth loss and soft-drink consumption and recommended a more preventative approach to oral health care.

The fluoridation of water is another measure that has been shown to successfully decrease the incidence of tooth decay. In an oral health survey in 2009, it was found that New Zealand children in areas with fluoridated water had 40 per cent less tooth decay than those in areas without it. Additionally, concerns about fluoridated water’s perceived lack of safety have proved to be unfounded, with community water fluoridation endorsed by bodies such as the World Health Organization, the NZDA and the Australian Dental Association.

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