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Dr Neil Peppitt speaks to News Corp on how sugary treats are affecting the oral health of children

Hidden sugar blamed for rise of tooth decay in children
By Jane Hansen
7 July 2019

Too much “hidden” sugar in food and too many sugary drinks is being blamed for a massive surge in children hospitalised with decaying teeth.

Most local health districts in Sydney have had increases of between 45 and 55 per cent since 2001, with the Central Sydney Local Health District recording the highest jump of 55 per cent, closely followed by Nepean Blue Mountains with a 50 per cent increase.

Dr Neil Peppitt from the Australian Dental Association NSW said sugar was the culprit and called on the federal government to make food companies label hidden sugar more clearly.

“The rate of cavities in five to 15 year olds has doubled so it has to be the sugar. It is across all local health districts and it has to be hidden sugar. Kids are probably drinking poppers and Up And Go and you look at the sugar content in those,” Dr Peppitt said.

Almost 96 per cent of the state has fluoride added to the water, which acts a repair kit but the amount of sugar in the diet is overwhelming the amount of prevention that fluoride can provide.

“These are sad figures. Mums are better informed and are no longer giving kids a toffee apple but lunch box snacks that are sticky and cling to the teeth and stay on them. You’re better off giving them chocolate,” Dr Peppitt said.

“We have been fighting for better sugar labelling for years, we have the obesity epidemic and diabetes and in kids it’s cavities.”

Redfern dentist and mother-of-two Dr Dilara Yashin said sugar is the culprit.

“We have fluoride in the water but the increase in sugary drinks and the consumption of sweets is a problem and often parents reward with sweet treats — they say to their kids in the dental chair: ‘If you get through this, we’ll go get an ice cream’,” she said, adding parents had a hard time identifying added sugar.

“There’s sugar in bread and you have to look really carefully at kid’s yoghurt because there is only one brand with no added sugar. They are trying to make it palatable to kids with the added sugar.”

And getting children like her two-year-old son Moony to brush their teeth early is also important.

“Sometimes you don’t know what to do with a child, there is so much decay, but the parents say my kid won’t brush,” Dr Yashin said.

“They also don’t know when it’s a good time to bring their children to first see a dentist.

“The answer is, when they get their first teeth they need to see mum and dad having their teeth checked and see it is okay.”

The only local health district where cavities have deceased is the Northern NSW Local Health District, which previously had the worst teeth in the state.

Fluoride was added to the water in Lismore and Ballina in 2014 after heated debate but since then the area has had a 25 per cent drop in children hospitalised for cavities.

Click here to read The Sunday Telegraph article

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