A two-part series published in The Lancet shared startling statistics on how people all over the world are losing their teeth at a rapid pace, thanks to sugar. With over 95% of 12-year-olds in the Philippines having tooth decay and 7 in 10 children in India, as well as 1 in every 3 Brazilians losing their teeth due to sugar, dentists have decided that something must be done.
Those, along with other stats on worldwide tooth decay, were shocking enough to lead dentists and public health experts to call for a serious change to end oral disease. Along with providing statistical information on how many people are suffering from tooth decay, the study also shared how sugar is the main culprit for the tooth decay many are struggling with throughout the world. “Sugar is the causative agent for dental decay,” said one of the study’s authors, Robert Weyant. “Basically, without sugar, you won’t develop tooth decay,” he continued. This is a powerful revelation because it is something that most would imagine could easily be resolved. Simply leave candy and sugary drinks alone and you can have great oral hygiene. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Health experts are complaining that the sugar industry has expanded well beyond candy and sodas. Now, sugar can be found in most of the foods that we eat in fast food restaurants and the sugar industry is not stopping there. According to Marion Nestle, author of the book Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning), Coca-Cola will spend $12 billion in marketing in Africa and PepsiCo will spend $5.5 billion in India. The sugar industry also has major influence over political organizations, and it has strong spending power and influence within the government. With such pull, how can one truly avoid suffering at the hands of sugar? This is something dozens of dentists are attempting to figure out.
Critics of the sugar industry and its impact on society argue that dentists are partially to blame for the problem most people are facing with oral disease. Rather than focus on teaching people how to prevent tooth decay, most complain that dentists are instead focusing on treatment. With cavities on the incline, the most sought action by dentists in dealing with such oral issues is saving a tooth through root canals and fillings, rather than taking the time to educate patients on how to prevent tooth decay through brushing and the elimination of sugary foods and beverages. This is the crux of oral hygiene and the inability of the public to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
To aid in reversing the number of children suffering from oral disease, the Philippine government has partnered efforts with their local dentists to take the issue of the importance of oral hygiene into the schools. Together, they established the Fit for School program which allows children to go into the courtyard to brush their teeth and wash their hands. This is something that most dentists are hoping will gain traction throughout the globe. Until then, dentists are making individual promises to end oral disease…one child at a time.