Have Kiwis given up the fight on tooth decay?

toothbrush-womanNew Zealanders are self-conscious about their teeth yet feel powerless to prevent tooth decay. That’s according to new consumer research that shows more than half of New Zealanders believe tooth decay is inevitable. 42% don’t even know the major cause of tooth decay.

Tooth decay in our country

The findings are surprising given New Zealand’s well documented problems with tooth decay and cavities.  The most recent Ministry of Health Oral Health Survey (2010) found that 51% of children and 77% of the adult population has cavities.

Cavities also account for approximately 76% of all hospital admissions for dental disease in New Zealand and every year nearly 270,000 people have a tooth removed.

What Kiwis think about oral care

The Horizon research of more than 1,200 adults provides unique insights into Kiwis’ attitudes on dental care and how they look after their teeth.  It found that:

  • 52% believe New Zealanders have good or extremely good oral care.
  • 53% believe that tooth decay is inevitable.
  • 63% feel self-conscious about their teeth.
  • 72% wish they’d taken better care of their teeth.

Of those that said they knew the major cause for tooth decay, 52% attributed it to consuming sugary foods and beverages while 29% blamed poor cleaning or dental hygiene practices.  Just over 8% of respondents knew that tooth decay is caused by sugar acids in the mouth weakening tooth enamel.

Fighting tooth decay – fact vs. myth

In terms of what methods Kiwis felt were effective for fighting tooth decay, the research found:

  • 97% of respondents said brushing teeth twice a day was effective, ahead of reducing sugary foods and drinks (87%) and flossing once a day (78%).
  • Older people aged over 65 are most likely to believe that eating apples reduces tooth decay.
  • Younger people under 35 years of age are least likely to believe that consuming less sugar reduces tooth decay.

Colgate Scientific Affairs Manager, Dr Rebecca Schipper, said the consumer research confirmed that New Zealanders needed to think more about what causes tooth decay and how to prevent it.

We’re surprised that nearly half of the population doesn’t know that sugar is a major contributor to tooth decay. It is so prevalent in our modern diet with all of the processed foods and fizzy drinks. Perhaps that’s why so many feel it’s inevitable?’

‘Sugar in the mouth provides an environment for plaque bacteria to thrive and the sugar acids they produce is what causes tooth decay.  The fact is tooth decay is almost entirely preventable.  It means combating the build-up of sugar acid on tooth enamel through reducing consumption of sugary foods and drinks and proper dental hygiene.’ she said.

New developments in toothpaste to help protect our teeth

Dr Schipper said, with daily sugar consumption rising 46% globally in the past 30 years, Colgate was committed to developing new technologies to directly combat tooth decay.

The latest technology is a breakthrough toothpaste – Colgate Maximum Cavity Protection plus Sugar Acid Neutraliser™. The new toothpaste, the only one of its kind in the world, reduces early decay by half (after six months’ use) by neutralising sugar acids in the mouth before they can weaken tooth enamel. Its development was the result of eight years of research involving over 14,000 people.

‘Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of patients requiring immediate and urgent treatment for decay, from fillings to hospital treatment.’

‘As a profession, I believe we really need to continue our efforts to educate New Zealanders and encourage good oral health care.  There is no reason for people to give up the fight on tooth decay.  It’s about changing our oral hygiene habits and dietary patterns, especially the regular consumption of sugary foods and drinks,’ Dr Schipper said.

Image / FreeDigitalPhotos.net – photostock

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