| 10.6°C Dublin

Three in four teens now have serious tooth decay

THE nation's children have rotten teeth with three in four teenagers suffering decay in their permanent teeth.

And 50pc of children are experiencing tooth decay by the age of 12, according to the Irish Dental Association.

"We seem to have lost the run of ourselves in terms of healthy eating" says Dr Sean Malone, president of the Association.

"Irish children consume more sugar than children in any other European country – its a cultural thing."

Dental decay is now the most common chronic disease among Irish children and Dr Malone says the grim statistics should serve as wake up call to young people and their parents.

According to figures from the Department of Health, 37pc of Irish children consume sweets once a day or more while 21pc report drinking soft drinks daily or more.

He welcomes the advice from the World Health Organisation this week which has called on people to halve their daily sugar intake to six teaspoons a day in a bid to cut health problems like tooth decay and obesity.

Dr Malone is particularly concerned about the consumption of fizzy drinks.


"People don't seem to realise that a can of coke contains 16 teaspoons of sugar," he said.

"Fizzy drinks are cheaper than milk and the acidity they cause is as bad as battery acid."

He explains that eating sweets or sugary items frequently throughout the day is worse than consuming a packet of sweets in one go.

"When someone eats a sweet the effects on the teeth last for about 20 minutes. If someone gobbles down a packet of sweets over an hour the effect on their teeth might last about an hour and half but if they eat single sweets at intervals throughout the day, the effect is much worse.

"Its not how much they eat, its how frequently they eat the sugar."

The IDA president says that HSE cutbacks often mean that the first time a child comes to a dentist is when they are in pain and need an extraction.

"Their first experience of the dentist is pain. They are lost after that," he said.

Rotten baby teeth also have an impact on the way in which adult teeth develop and dental decay among older adults, he says is another big problem.

Dr Malone wants Health Minister James Reilly to make sure that all fizzy soft drinks carry public health warnings and laws are introduced to make sure the sugar content of all food and drinks is highlighted.


"The health warning system has worked well for tobacco and alcohol products and it is time for warnings to be placed on food and drink products so that consumers can make an informed choice," he adds.

"Its about getting people to realise and make themselves responsible for their own health".