Source: Stuff, 12 January 2017
Research has shown how ditching sugary drinks in
favour of water has a tangible impact on cavities in children's
In 2007, decile 1 Yendarra School in South Auckland adopted a
'water only' policy for drinks and asked parents to provide
healthy lunches made up of salads, sandwiches, fruit, water and
Over seven years the average number of
cavities dropped 'significantly' and the number of
extractions due to decay halved, according to a study
by Auckland Regional Public Health Service.
"Sugar is the most important determinant of rotten teeth,"
lead author Dr Simon Thornley of Auckland Regional Public
Health Service said.
Thornley and his team examined 3813 records of
children who attended dental exams in the schools of interest
and found the number of cavities in primary and adult teeth
was 0.37 lower for Yendarra's pupils, when compared to
schools that were similar.
"It is significant because it means basically there's 0.4 less
decayed teeth per child compared to comparable schools," public
health dentist and veteran anti-sugar campaigner Dr
Rob Beaglehole said.
Yendarra School principal Susan Dunlop was still on
holiday on Wednesday and could not be reached.
The majority of the school's pupils are Maori and
Pasifika. It has a 1a decile rating.
"What that means in laymans terms, on the socio-economic scale,
it's the lowest of the low," Dunlop said in a Tedx talk
in Manukau, Auckland, in 2015.
The school had historically been plagued by poor
attendance, bad behaviour and food choices, Dunlop said.
Since the switch, Dunlop has reported behaviour,
achievement levels and attendance has improved, and there has been
a reduction in skin infections, as well as better dental
She expected a raft of parent complaints when the initiative
began, but the school received just one.
"The kids lost so much weight because they weren't having
sugary drinks that they had to bring in smaller
uniforms," Beaglehole said.
Beaglehole and Thornley both want to see a 'water only'
policy implemented by all schools.
Thornley said the strict nutrition policy was "likely to
reduce health-care costs associated with the treatment of
"I think we worked out we spend about $20m a year in NZ putting
kids under general anesthetic to treat the sugar addiction. To me
it's totally unnecessary."
"But because we are swimming in sugar as a society, that's the
price we have to pay.
"If we can use schools and early childhood centres to get the
message through, that's great."
Nationally, 5500 children aged under 8 had to have their
teeth pulled under general anaesthetic in
2015, Beaglehole said.
"The number one reason children are admitted to hospital in
New Zealand is to get their teeth out under general
"Dentists are sick and tired of this pain and suffering they are
"I've taken out 10 teeth on an 18-month-old who was still in
nappies and had been consuming Coke in a baby bottle."