More than 30% of Australians admit they are only brushing once daily.
More than 30% of Australians admit they are only brushing once daily. Monkey Business Images Ltd

Brush up on dental hygiene

IF YOU'RE in the dating scene, it's not expensive cologne or a classy outfit you need to woo the object of your affection, but the humble toothbrush, according to new research from the Australian Dental Association (ADA).

While the findings show we tend to be complacent with our pearly whites, the majority of participants (83%) said decayed chompers and bad breath were the biggest turn-offs on a first date, far more concerning than excessive body odour (5%) or poor dress sense (4%), the survey revealed.

The study also found many parents had resigned themselves to believing their kids would suffer dental decay.

ADA oral health committee chairman Dr Peter Alldritt said it was alarming that 57% of people surveyed expected to develop tooth decay when taking simple steps for oral health could make a big difference.

According to Dr Alldritt, the easiest way to avoid tooth decay is to watch what you eat and drink.

"The number one cause of tooth decay is consumption of sugary foods and drinks on a regular basis," Dr Alldritt said.

The bacteria in your mouth convert sugars into acids.

Over time, acids eat away at the surface of a tooth, attacking the enamel, weakening the tooth and causing decay in the form of holes or cavities.

"Preventing tooth decay can be as simple as controlling consumption of sugary or acidic food and drinks between meals, drinking soft drinks through a straw to minimise the acid exposure to your teeth and eating calcium-rich foods like cheese and yoghurt to help neutralise acids and protect your teeth."

The study found almost 35% of parents reported their children only brushed their teeth once a day with more than 60% accepting their children will get tooth decay at some point in their lifetime.

Tooth decay is Australia's most common health problem, with five times the prevalence of that of asthma among children and 11 million newly decayed teeth developing each year.

According to government reports, it's the second-most-costly diet-related disease in Australia, which The ADA says is all the more concerning given 90% of all dental disease is preventable.

Another easy way to prevent tooth decay is to maintain healthy oral hygiene habits such as brushing teeth twice a day and flossing once a day, yet more than 30% of Australians admit they are only brushing once daily, with most of us skipping the pre-bed brush, and many of us admit we avoid flossing altogether.

During Dental Health Week the ADA is urging Australians to rethink their attitudes to tooth decay and not accept or expect it, but rather practise better oral health habits and be aware of the damage certain foods and drinks can cause to teeth.

Being aware of what you eat and drink and avoiding copious amounts of sugary or acidic food and beverages is the easiest way to avoid tooth decay.

Brushing twice daily, flossing every day and visiting your dentist regularly will also go a long way to avoiding the condition, Dr Alldritt said.


Keeping your teeth healthy

  • Avoid snacking on sugary or acidic food and drinks between meals and watch out for foods with a sticky consistency - like muesli bars, which can be more sugary than they seem
  • Eat calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt
  • Brush twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste. Brushing can cut the risk of decay by 25%
  • Floss your teeth once a day
  • Chew sugar-free gum
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get regular dental check-ups


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