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Bottled water

Bottled water is another drink which people may not realise has an effect on oral health. Increased con-sumption, particularly by children may put them at greater risk of tooth decay.

This is because they are not consuming as much fluoridated tap water. Fluoride in drinking water has been essential to ensuring strong and healthy teeth for generations of people.
If fluoridated tap water is unavailable then bottled water is still a better alternative than juice, cordial, sports drinks, carbonated or uncarbonated drinks.

Keys to maintaining good oral health

Enjoying food and drinks is part of living a balanced life, and it isn’t necessary to cut out these drinks altogether.
Instead, there are some key things people can do to ensure that while they are enjoying their choice of beverages, they are still maintaining their oral health:

- Avoid holding or ‘swishing’ soft drinks or sports drinks around the mouth as this increases the likeli¬hood of dental decay and enamel erosion.

- Use a straw where possible as this minimises exposure of the beverage to teeth.

- Try to drink chilled soft drinks and sports drinks as cooler temperatures have been shown to be less likely to encourage tooth erosion.

- Drink fluoridated tap water as much as possible. Try to follow consumption of a soft drink or sports drink with a glass of water as it helps with saliva flow and helps wash the sugars and acids from such drinks away. Increased saliva flow can assist with neutralising acid from bacteria and protect teeth.

- Also, make sure you maintain a routine of brushing

The Australian Dental Association Inc (ADA) supports the addition of fluoride to bottled water.

“Recent calls by the Prime Minister, John Howard, and Choice Magazine to consider the addition of fluoride to bottled water are supported by the ADA.

Last year, a survey of fluoride content in still bottled water was published in the Australian Dental Journal. The average level was less than 10% (.08 part per million) of the optimum (1.00 part per million)” says Dr John Matthews, President of the ADA.

“The impact that consumption of non-fluoridated bottled water has on teeth is difficult to determine. It has to be taken in context with the consumption of other beverages that have grown recently in popularity. The intake of carbonated drinks, fruit juice and sports drinks places an individual at far greater risk of tooth decay than the consumption of non-fluoridated water.

However, the ADA suggests there is a potential link between increasing decay rates in children and teenagers and increased consumption of non-fluoridated water. The ADA believes bottled water should be fluoridated and that the fluoride content should be clearly marked on the label.

Many parents give young children filtered tap water. Parents should be aware that some filters (reverse osmosis) remove fluoride. The ADA believes manufacturers of filter systems should clearly stipulate a filter’s capacity to remove fluoride.

The overall ADA strategy recommended to prevent childhood caries (tooth decay) is:

• Use fluoride daily – in drinking water and toothpaste
• Avoid sweet, acidic, sticky foods, especially between meals
• Brush and floss your teeth daily
• Visit your dentist regularly for preventative treatment and early intervention

Soft drinks often contain a significant amount of sugar – a 600ml bottle can contain the equivalent of up to 13 teaspoons of sugar, as well as high acid levels – both of which can potentially damage teeth. Some also have caffeine, which can dry the mouth.

Fruit juices contain a high level of available sugars, as well as being acidic. It is recommended that they be consumed at a mealtime.

Additionally, so-called sports drinks also have high sugar content and are quite acidic which is a recipe for dental erosion. This is particularly the case if used in conjunction with heavy exertion. Studies into regular consumption of sports drinks show that they may lead to dental decay and/or dental erosion because their acid levels have been linked to harming the tooth enamel.

High sugar and acid drinks should be limited to mealtimes in order to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Water is the best between meal drink.

The growing popularity of bottled water has also been linked to an increase in dental decay. A study by the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health indicated that children drinking non-fluoridated water found in bottled water or tank water had 52% more cavities in baby teeth than children who drank fluoridated tap water.

World wide reputable health authorities such as the World Health Organisation endorse water fluoridation stating it is extremely effective in helping to prevent dental decay and rates water fluoridation as one of the top 10 health achievements of the 20th century.

The ADA says the best way for children to remain adequately hydrated and maintain healthy teeth is to drink fluoridated tap water where possible. If soft drinks, fruit juices or sports drinks are consumed the ADA recommends the following:

* Try not to hold or ‘swish’ the drink around the mouth as this increases the likelihood of dental decay and enamel erosion
* Use a straw where possible as this minimises exposure of the beverage to teeth
* Try to drink chilled drinks as cooler temperatures have been shown as less likely to encourage tooth erosion
* Drink fluoridated tap water as much as possible. Try to follow consumption of a fruit juice, soft drink or sports drink with a glass of water as it helps with saliva flow and helps wash away the sugars and acids from such drinks. Increased saliva flow can assist with neutralising acid from bacteria and protect teeth.

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