Dental Health Week: How much sugar is hiding in your trolley?

15 July 2020

Sugar is lurking everywhere in supermarket staples, even some that might appear to be healthy on the surface, and so this during the ADA’s oral promotion flagship event, Dental Health Week (3 - 9 August),  the sugary curtain is being pulled back to show Australians what’s really in the food they eat, and how this information can help them be healthier all over but especially in their mouth.

Ultimately, the aim is help everyone to become more “sugar savvy”.

Hiding in plain sight
Many people think that a little extra sugar here and there isn’t such a big deal, but the odds are that they are taking in far more than they realise. 

Figures show that the average Australian is consuming 14 teaspoons of sugar a day, a whole lot more than the maximum six teaspoons a day recommended by the World Health Organisation for increased health benefits such as decreasing the risk of tooth decay, which is having a profoundly negative effect on Australia’s dental health as revealed by Australia’s Oral Health Tracker.

To help people get inside the recommended range, and be healthier into the bargain, this year’s Dental Health Week is all about showing everyone what daily sugar consumption level looks like in relation to the food they eat, how to read a food label so they can see what’s really in their food, and how sugar can negatively affect their dental health.

Beyond that, we want to show people how easy it is to keep their teeth and gums healthy by emphasising the following key messages:

Brushing
For far too many people, there’s not a whole of brushing going on. In fact, only 50% of Australians brush twice a day.  We want members of the public to realise that a quick, occasional dash along their teeth with a hope and a prayer is not going to cut it, and that they need to brush for at least two minutes twice a day, taking care to use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean their teeth systematically along all surfaces, always brushing in small, circular motions. 

Flossing
People may dismiss flossing (or using an interdental brush) once a day as unnecessary but Dental Health Week will be stressing its importance by pointing to the fact that by removing plaque from between teeth which goes a long way in helping to prevent gum disease, tooth decay and halitosis ("bad breath"). People will be encouraged to take their time, using a gentle side-to-side motion with about 45cm wound around their middle fingers and thumb. If they’re not sure about the right technique, we’ll be directing them to have a chat with their dentist who can show them all the right flossing techniques. 

See their dentist regularly 
One recent survey revealed that 65% of Australians have not seen a dentist in the last two years, a startling statistic that Dental Health Week hopes to change by instilling in people the important of seeing a dentist on a regular basis, preferably every 6 to 12 months or as needed to keep on top of their dental health. If people don’t have a regular dentist they will be directed to the ADA’s Find a Dentist service (there are also tips on how to choose a dentist).

Eat and drink well
Beyond limiting the sugar they eat, we will be recommending that people drink more tap water, avoid snacking between meals, and stick instead to three meals a day with a focus on foods like vegetables and dairy products (with the proviso that any major dietary changes should be run by a healthcare professional.

How do we know the average Aussie isn’t giving their dental health the required amount of attention? Australia’s Oral Health Tracker, launched in 2018 and updated in 2020, is a national report card on the health of our mouths and how this impacts how healthy we are overall.