World Oral Health Day - We're doing better but still a long way to go

19 March 2021

New data has found that more people are looking after their mouths better - though there are still some bad oral health habits that need eradicating, according to the Australian Dental Association (ADA).

On Saturday March 20 it’s World Oral Health Day (WOHD), the global health campaign focusing on the message ‘Be proud of your mouth’, and the ADA has found in its recent consumer survey of 25,000 Australians in late 2020 that many adults may just be doing that by brushing their teeth twice a day.

“When we started tracking the nation’s oral health habits in 2011, we found 56% of people were brushing twice a day as reported in the 2018 Oral Health Tracker*, a report card on preventable oral diseases and their risk factors,” said Dr Mikaela Chinotti, the Australian Dental Association’s Oral Health Promoter.

“While this then dipped to 47%, now it’s back to 53%. Hopefully, this means people are getting the message and realising that if they look after their teeth, they should last a  lifetime.

“Worryingly, of those respondents who only brushed once a day, 12% thought brushing more often wasn’t good for the teeth, while 37% said they didn’t need to.

“And 29% of those who didn’t brush twice a day said this was because it caused pain and discomfort - which points to a very real need for these people to see their dentist.

“These results show there’s still some way to go, and education forms a large part of that. That’s why for WOHD 2021, the ADA in combination with SugarByHalf are launching their latest suite of school lessons that integrate oral health into mainstream learning.”

The suite of school lessons using the purpose-built storybook Guardians of the Gums (image below), has been produced in collaboration with Cool Australia. 

The lessons will be used by school teachers to integrate oral health into everyday maths and science lessons, aiming to help kids make nutritional food and drink choices for early learning through to year two.

These lessons allow for oral health to be taught in schools Australia-wide, in alignment with the national curriculum “because it’s never too early to understand about caring for your mouth.”

Other consumer survey findings which demonstrate that improvements need to be made include:

- only a quarter of adults floss at least once a day, with 31% reporting to ‘never’ clean between their teeth.

- two-thirds of adults aren’t aware that some medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease can impact on, or be impacted by, their oral health.

- 13% of parents reported their children drank soft drink daily, while 39% consumed soft drink 2-5 times per week. Just one can of soft drink takes people above the recommended daily sugar intake and can contribute not just to tooth decay but also weight gain. 

- 10% of parents report taking their child to the dentist only when they have a problem and 60% do so every 12-24 months. 

"These results show there’s still a way to go in improving the nation’s oral health, particularly when it comes to oral health literacy, showing the importance of starting dental visits and oral health education from a young age.

“Our message for World Oral Health Day: brushing twice a twice with a soft brush and a pea- sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste, cleaning between the teeth daily, eating a nutritious diet low in sugar and seeing a dentist regularly will all go a long way to caring for the health of your mouth.”
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