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31 Mar 2014 | Auxiliary

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National report drills into Australia's tooth decay epidemic proving it's kids who are most at risk

Research Oral Hygiene Prevention

Colgate® has released new research as part of a national report into the country's second most costly diet-related disease, which affects nine out of ten Australian adults - tooth decay - and it's not just adults being affected.1 Tooth decay is considered to be Australia's most chronic disease for children and is five times more prevalent in children than asthma.

While tooth decay has declined globally since the 1970s, recent data from the Australian Dental Association has indicated an increasing trend in tooth decay has become apparent in Australia sine 1997 and it is now Australia's most common health problem, with 11 million newly decayed teeth developing each year.2

Most Australians ambivalent to tooth decay3

The Colgate Cavity Report has revealed:

  • Almost half (45%) of Australians believe tooth decay is inevitable;
  • 58% of Australians believe getting cavities happens to everyone;
  • Three in five (61%) Australian adults feel self-conscious about the appearance of their teeth;
  • 75% of Australian adults wish they had taken better care of their teeth;
  • Only half (48%) of Australians brush their teeth the recommended amount of twice a day;
  • 49% forget to brush before bed;
  • Four in ten (39%) Aussies admit they don't know or aren't sure how often it is recommended to brush their teeth in order to maintain good oral health.

Dr Susan Cartwright, Scientific Affairs Manager at Colgate Oral Care, says tooth decay doesn't have to be an endemic issue.

"If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to serious health issues, such as pulp damage, infection and loss of teeth," she said. "With such potentially painful effects, why is tooth decay still reported as Australia's most common health problem? It doesn't have to be this way - the Australian Dental Association believes no one should accept the condition as inevitable as it can be easily prevented with a healthy diet and proper dental care".

Tooth decay in Aussie kids

Whe new research has revealed 72% of Aussie parents worry about the appearance of their child's teeth and, by the time a child is ten years of age, 94% of parents are worried about them getting cavities. Despite this, almost half (49%) of Aussie parents still believe getting cavities "just happens" to all children.

The Colgate Cavity Report has shown that almost half of Australian parents (47%) have had their children experience symptoms of tooth decay in the past 12 months including toothache (23%), sensitive teeth (16%) and infection (10%).

Preventing cavities is a struggle, with 59% of parents finding it difficult to get their children to brush their teeth twice a day and 39% of Aussie parents believing they need to set a better example for their kids when it comes to oral healthcare.

Dr Cartwright raises her concerns and urges parents to set a good oral health care routine for their kids as early as possible."We know that brushing twice a day drops off in the late teens and early twenties as children start a new phase of their lives, leaving high school, starting university or work, moving out of home," Dr Cartwright said. "But I cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring your child maintains a proper oral health care routine. Children are at risk of early childhood tooth decay as soon as their baby teeth begin to erupt. One of most important health lessons you can give your child is teaching them good daily oral care habits and supervising their oral care routine."

Sugar coating the issue

While there are a number of factors behind tooth decay, a poor or incomplete daily oral care routine and high sugar diet are the top causes. The number one cause is the consumption of sugary foods and drinks on a regular basis. Sugary foods and drinks provide the sugars for decay causing plaque bacteria to thrive. The acids these bacteria produce cause tooth decay.

According to a Credit Suisse Research Institute report4 on sugar, Australians are amongst the world's biggest sugar consumers, joining the US, Brazil and Argentina in consuming more than double the world's average of 17 teaspoons per person, per day. Yet, according to The Colgate Cavity Report, only one in four (25%) Australians believe the major cause of tooth decay is the consumption of sugary food and drinks.

Moving one step closer to a world without cavities

Colgate is committed to developing new technologies to directly combat this health issue.

In fact, it has taken over 14,000 people and eight years of clinical research to move one step closer to a world without cavities.

The result is a breakthrough toothpaste that reduces early decay by half5 - the new Colgate Maximum Cavity Protection plus Sugar Acid Neutraliser™. This is the first and only family6 toothpaste globally with unique Sugar Acid Neutraliser™ technology that directly fights sugar acids in plaque, the number one cause of cavities.

According to Dr Cartwright, there are a number of challenges that Australians need to be aware of and address in order to prevent this disease.

"In my 25 years practicing dentistry, I have seen hundreds of patients requiring immediate and urgent treatment for decay, from fillings to hospital treatment, all to address the outcomes of a disease that is almost entirely preventable," she said.

"As a profession, I believe we really need to continue our efforts in promoting good oral health care and educating Australians about tooth decay, including promoting changes in oral hygiene habits, generational beliefs and dietary patterns, especially the regular consumption of sugary foods and drinks. Tooth decay is largely preventable and at the very early stages, it can be reversed. There is hope for a future free from cavities."


  1. A Lonergan study conducted among 1,029 Australians aged 18 years and over between Monday 23 December 2013 and Monday 6 January 2014. Australian parents refer to parents with children aged 4 - 17 years. The study was conducted online amongst members of a permission based panel.
  2. Australian Dental Association, "Tooth Decay - Australia's Most Prevalent Health Condition", June 2012.
  3. Colgate, "Understanding Tooth Brushing Behaviours and Motivators", July 2009.
  4. Credit Suisse, "Is Sugar Turning the Economy Sour?", October 2013.
  5. After six months' use.
  6. Do not use in children six years of age or less. For children aged 6 years and younger, Colgate recommends specially formulated Colgate children's toothpaste.
  7. Australian Dental Journal (Authors Mejia, Gloria Cecilia; Ha, Diep Hong and Australian Research for Population Oral Health, "Dental caries trends in Australian school children", 2011.
  8. Ministry of Health, "Our Oral Health", 2010 report.





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