Sugar consumption is rising, dragging down peoples’ oral health with it

31 July 2019

Among the many salient facts laid out in Australia’s Oral Health Tracker about the state of oral health in this country is the stark reality that Australians, both adult and children, are consuming far too much sugar.

For instance, among adults aged 19-and-older 47.8% among taking in too much sugar while children aged 9-13 years and those aged 14-18 years are consuming 70.35 and 73.1% respectively.

But this is not a problem confined to Australia unfortunately as a two-part series in The Lancet in which a number of dentists and public health experts name sugar as the leading culprit in the explosive growth of tooth decay worldwide. 

One of the authors of the series, which seeks to examine “why oral diseases have persisted globally over the past three decades, despite scientific advancements in the field”, is Robert Weyant, a dental public health expert at the University of Pittsburgh, who notes that "Sugar is the causative agent for dental decay. Basically, without sugar, you won't develop decay."

As countries develop, they undergo what is termed a “nutrition transition”, often forgoing traditional, more wholesome diets in favour of Fast foods that are fried, high in fat, sweet — and very cheap” says Habib Benzian, a study co-author and associate director of global health and policy at New York University's College of Dentistry.

This trend is exacerbated by food manufacturers who promote foods high in sugar in developed and developing countries, encouraging people onto diets high in foods that imperil their oral and dental health which, The Lancet series also notes treated as intertwined issues, something that it says must change.

"[Our] two-part Series argues that oral health has been isolated from traditional health care and health policy for too long, despite the major global public health burden of oral diseases."

The authors of the series call for, among other things, the need for a separation between the sugar industry and oral health research organisations, an increased focus on oral hygiene efforts and a concentration on educating children about the harmful effects of sugar, something the ADA is playing a key part in with its new collaborative relationship with SugarByHalf.

For more on this study, please go to The Lancet and NPR article, "Study: Sugar Rules The World And Ruins Teeth"