Salt and vinegar crisps have been named as one of the worst culprits for tooth decay, according to a new study.
The favourite Aussie snacks are joined by diet soft drinks, juices and raw fruit on the list, along with a more surprising addition – fruit tea.
The study, carried out by researchers at King’s College London, England, and published in the British Dental Journal, points the finger at highly acidic food and drinks, particularly when they’re consumed outside meal times – and experts claim they could be contributing to higher rates of tooth decay.
Eating and drinking too many of them can result in the loss of tooth enamel and dentine, which is more widely known as erosive tooth wear.
Drawing on previous research by Guy’s Hospital – which studied the diets of 300 people suffering from tooth erosion compared to those of 300 people with healthy teeth – the study found that drinking an acidic drink such as fruit tea, water with lemon or soft drinks could make suffering from tooth erosion 11 times more likely.
Surprisingly, that figure is halved if the drinks are consumed at mealtimes however.
Top of the list of erosive products were foods or drinks with added fruit or fruit flavourings, and experts warned taking longer to swallow them can increase their erosive effect.
The team found the rate of tooth decay often depends on a person’s eating and drinking habits more generally, and they used the example of wine lovers, saying they “swish and hold wine in their mouths for prolonged periods and multiple times a day”.
The study added: “Long distance drivers or video gamers may sip acidic drinks over long periods of time,” which would also increase their chances of tooth decay.
It was recently revealed nearly six million Aussies are living with tooth decay or other oral health issues, according to Medibank data.
Of the various conditions surveyed in this study, tooth decay came out top as the leading dental or oral health issue Down Under. It affects around 14.7 per cent – equivalent to 2,759,000 million people, the study claimed.
Lead researcher in the British-based team, Dr Saoirse O’Toole, said: “It is well known that an acidic diet is associated with erosive tooth wear, however our study has shown the impact of the way in which acidic food and drinks are consumed.
“With the prevalence of erosive tooth wear increasing, it is vitally important that we address this preventable aspect of erosive tooth wear. Reducing dietary acid intake can be key to delaying progression of tooth erosion. While behaviour change can be difficult to achieve, specific, targeted behavioural interventions may prove successful.”
While the overall percentage of Aussies suffering from tooth decay has declined since 2012-13, the number appears to have risen again in recent years, growing from 13.9 per cent in 2014-15 to 14.7 per cent in 2016-17 – the equivalent of around 216,000 Australians.