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Consensus Statement on Sugary Drinks

Sugary drinks are no longer a looming public health crisis, but a very real one. By working together, and acting now, we can prevent not only oral health damage, but obesity - a leading risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

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At which age should I enroll my child at a school/community dental clinic?
It is recommended that you enroll your child before their first birthday and thereafter any time up to the end of their Year 8 schooling. However early enrolment provides the best opportunity to meet your child's oral health needs at the outset. For exact enrolment age contact your local DHB, as this may vary between District Health Boards.

How do I enroll my child at a dental clinic?
You can contact your local school dental clinic or DHB directly. Alternatively, you can contact your family doctor, plunket nurse or Tamariki Ora  / Well Child provider for enrolling your child.

What type of care is provided under the free service?
Dental therapists provide dental examinations, fillings, extraction of primary teeth, placement of fissure sealants, applications of fluorides, oral health education and promotion. Referrals are made to appropriate dental practitioners for care beyond their scope of practice.

What does fluoride do to the teeth?
Fluoride helps prevent dental decay by both strengthening and protecting the teeth. Firstly, fluoride helps strengthen baby teeth by building fluoride into their structure. This is most effective when teeth get exposed to small levels of fluoride when they erupt through gums. Secondly, fluoride helps protect both children and adults' teeth by early stages of dental decay.

Is it okay to use chewing gum?
Yes, provided that you only use sugar-free chewing gum. Chewing gum makes extra saliva and this helps clear food from your teeth, and quickly neutralizes acids produced by bacteria. Make sure that the chewing gum doesn't contain sugar as this could cause more tooth decay.

Why is fizzy drink bad for teeth?
A normal mouth has a pH of 6.2 to 7, which is close to neutral with no damage done to the teeth. Though enamel is the hardest substance in the body, it begins to dissolve at pH levels below 5.5. Fizzy drinks are very acidic with an average pH of 3.5. This acid dissolves the tooth enamel and makes it prone to decay. Diet or sugar-free drinks may not have sugar, but they usually contain harmful acid. Some also contain caffeine which reduces the salivary flow into the mouth and reduces the benefits of saliva.

What foods are bad for teeth?
The bacteria in your mouth use carbohydrates as energy and produces acid as a by-product. Some carbs -especially those like sucrose, as found in sweets and soft-drinks - cause more acid to be produced, and are worse for your teeth. Avoid eating sugary, sticky and crispy snacks in between meals. Replace these with healthy snacks such as fresh fruit pieces, cheese, chopped vegetables and sandwiches. Stick to water and milk, especially between meals.