Sugar can be even worse than tobacco and alcohol when it comes to teeth. According to Dr. Rob Beaglehole, many children are ruining their teeth thanks to the constant consumption of sugary drinks. Beaglehole works out of Marlborough, New Zealand. There, he frequently sees very young children that are experiencing extensive dental health problems.
This past Thursday, Beaglehole was working in the Blenheim community oral health clinic when a six-year-old boy came in with multiple rotting teeth — the result of drinking a large amount of coke.
“He turned up in excruciating pain,” Beaglehole said. “Many of his teeth were rotten to the root.” By the end of the visit, the boy had to have eight teeth pulled, as well as multiple fillings inserted. After examining several of the boy’s siblings, it seemed likely that they would need teeth pulled as well.
While many parents might not recognize the importance of dental care for your children, Beaglehole emphasizes the long term effects that occur when children experience extensive problems like this, saying that the boy will likely experience orthodontic problems, pain, and potentially issues with socializing and speech formation in the future.
“It is a typical presentation. People like him turn up daily at dental clinics around the country. It is sickening,” said Beaglehole. In Marlborough, tooth disease is currently one of the most common reasons that children are admitted to the hospital. Sugary drinks are especially damaging when they are sipped throughout the course of the day, rather than consumed as part of a meal, because this allows the sugars to sit on the teeth for many hours — inviting bacteria that lead to the eventual and irreversible decay.
Beaglehole recommends taxing sugary drinks 20% in order to discourage extensive consumption. He notes that parents aren’t always to blame, considering that it is a cheap drink, appealing to those living in poverty. He also says that groups like the All Blacks, sponsored by Coke, make the drink seem fun and “good.”
How can parents and children alike work to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, besides cutting back on sugary drinks? Brushing teeth at least twice a day for about two minutes is an important preventative measure. Flossing should occur once a day in order to combat gum disease. Drinking fluoridated water and eating balanced, nutritional meals are also important steps for ensuring a healthy mouth.