Tooth Decay

A major cause of tooth decay is sugary pop; as a result more than one in four 5 year olds experience toothache, fillings and tooth loss.

Why are you at risk?

Tooth decay is caused when bacteria in the mouth uses sugar from foods and drinks to produce acids that damage the enamel on teeth.

Sugary drinks have high levels of sugar and therefore drinking these can significantly contribute to tooth decay and can cause painful cavities that require dental attention.

A study in the British Dental Journal found a strong link between sugary drink consumption and tooth erosion. The study found that the risk of tooth erosion was 59% higher in 12-year-olds, and 220% higher in 14-year-olds who drank sugary drinks, compared to those who didn’t. Further finding show that 12-year-olds who drank four or more servings of sugary pop a day had an increased risk of 252%, whilst the risk to 14-year-olds increased to a massive 513%.

The survey of more than 1,000 children found that two-thirds of 12-year-olds reported drinking sugary drinks. Among 14-year-olds this figure had risen to over 92%. For both age groups more than 40% of those surveyed reported having three or more servings of sugary pop per day.

The scary fact is this, tooth decay may not cause any symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage! As the problem develops, symptoms of tooth decay can include:

  • Toothache
  • Tooth sensitivity – you may feel tenderness or pain when eating or drinking something hot, cold or sweet
  • Grey, brown or black spots appearing on your teeth
  • Bad breath
  • An unpleasant taste in your mouth

If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to further problems such as a cavities (holes in the teeth) gum disease or dental abscesses (collections of pus at the end of the teeth or in the gums) which can then require dental treatment such as fillings and extractions.

There are many ways you can avoid tooth decay

For adults and children:

  • Cut down on sugary drinks, particularly between meals or within an hour of going to bed. If you do eat sugary foods or drink it is best to limit these to mealtimes.
  • ‘Diet’ soft drinks contain little or no sugar; however, most are still acidic enough to harm your teeth if consumed too often. Water and milk, are the best choices for a drink between meals.
  • Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, spending at least two minutes each time.
  • Use floss or an interdental toothbrush at least once a day to clean between your teeth and under the gum line.
  • Avoid rinsing your mouth with water or mouthwash after brushing because this washes the protective toothpaste away – just spit out any excess toothpaste.

For children and babies:

  • Baby feeding bottles should be used for milk and water only.
  • Sugary drinks should not be given to infants.

Learn how to reduce your sugar intake from drinks here

How much Sugar are you drinking?

How many sugary drinks do you drink per week?


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