Protecting your teeth is important

TOOTH decay is Australia's most common health problem.

It is five times more prevalent than asthma among children.

About 11 million newly decayed teeth develop each year.

Government reports show that tooth decay also is the second most-costly, diet-related disease in Australia.

Research commissioned by the Australian Dental Association reveals an alarming 57% of Australians expect at some stage in their lives they will develop tooth decay, a condition that can be unsightly, painful and irreversible.

However, ADA's Oral Health Committee chairman Peter Alldritt said no one should expect to get tooth decay as it could be prevented with a healthy diet and proper dental care - the main messages of the ADA's 2012 Dental Health Week next week.

Dr Alldritt said the easiest way to avoid tooth decay was to be aware of what you ate and drank.

"The number-one cause of tooth decay is consumption of sugary foods and drinks on a regular basis," he said.

"The bacteria in your mouth convert sugars into acids.

"Over time, acids eat away at the surface of a tooth, attacking the enamel, weakening the tooth and causing decay in the form of holes or cavities.

"Preventing tooth decay can be as simple as controlling consumption of sugary or acidic food and drinks between meals, drinking soft drinks through a straw to minimise the acid exposure to your teeth and eating calcium rich foods like cheese and yogurt to help neutralise acids and protect your teeth."

Another easy way to prevent tooth decay is to brush teeth twice a day and floss once a day, yet more than 30% of Australians admit they only brush once daily, with most of skipping the pre-bed brush, and many of admitting to avoiding flossing altogether.

The study found almost 35% of parents reported their children were only brushing once a day with more than 60% just accepting that their children would get tooth decay at some point.

While the habits suggest complacency when it comes to oral care, the overwhelming majority of Australians (83%) say that decayed teeth and bad breath are the biggest turn-offs on a first date, far more concerning than excessive body odour (5%) or poor dress sense (4%), the survey reveals.

During Dental Health Week the ADA is urging Australians to rethink their attitudes to tooth decay and not accept or expect it, but rather practise better oral health habits and be aware of the damage certain foods and drinks can cause to teeth.

For more information and fact sheets on tooth decay, visit



To prevent tooth decay

  • Avoid snacking on sugary or acidic foods and drinks.
  • Eating calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt can help to neutralise acids and protect your teeth.
  • Brush twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste - brushing can reduce your risk of decay by 25%.
  • Floss once a day - flossing removes food from between your teeth, which brushing can't reach.
  • Drink fluoridated tap water - studies have estimated an 18-40% reduction in tooth decay when children drink fluoridated tap water in conjunction with other sources of fluoride
  • Chew sugarfree gum - Evidence shows chewing sugarfree gum increases the production of saliva, which helps protect your teeth.

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