Tooth decay from sugary drinks is increasingly affecting young children, the Australian Dental Association says.
“There’s definitely been an increase of decay over the last five to 10 years, especially in younger children and young males,” Newcastle dentist Dr Mark Morrin said.
“There’s nothing more tragic than seeing a toddler being given a sugary drink in their bottle. It’s horrendous, but it happens.”
Dr Morrin is president of the Newcastle branch of the Australian Dental Association.
The association is part of a group of health and community organisations that have backed a new campaign called “Rethink Sugary Drink”.
The campaign is concerned about the amount of sugar in soft drinks and the over-consumption of sugary drinks. It is targeting soft, sports, energy, fruit and cordial drinks.
Dr Morrin said the over-consumption of sugary drinks was often a socioeconomic problem.
“Parents have to be educated,” he said.
“It’s also the amount of advertising and campaigning that these manufacturers do. They target young males especially.”
Research shows the highest consumers of sugary drinks are young males aged 12 to 24. In fact, males are higher consumers than females across all age groups.
As well as dental disasters, sugary drinks are linked to general health problems.
Oral health is associated with major chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and pregnancy problems.
Sugary drinks have also been pinpointed as a key contributor to obesity, which is a leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
The campaign is calling on the federal government to introduce a health levy on sugary drinks to increase the price by 20 per cent.
Furthermore, it is pushing for state governments to introduce mandatory restrictions on the sale of sugary drinks in schools, government institutions, children’s sports and events, along with places frequented by children. Campaigners want this measure combined with an increase in the availability of free water.
The industry that sells sugary drinks promotes the belief that “all foods and beverages can be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet and a physically active lifestyle”.