Warnings on alcohol, tobacco, e-cigs in latest dental advice

Australia’s dentists have released a new consensus statement on oral health, which warns of the impacts alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarette use can have on the mouth.

The new statement revises the first Oral Health Messages for Australia, published more than a decade ago, which the Australian Dental Association says “reflect the latest science and research” for what Australian dentists should be telling their patients.

Among the 11 points of the statement are recommendations for particular groups in society, as well as the impact of lifestyle choices.

After opening with a broad emphasis of the importance of oral health to overall health, the document warns against free (or added) sugars in food and beverages, including those in honey and fruit juices or concentrates.

It also recommends fluoridation of drinking water, which is not a uniform practice across Australia. 1 in 10 Australians don’t have access to fluoridated water. At the last review of the practice across the nation, New South Wales had the highest access to fluoridated water, while Queensland had the lowest.

Fluoridated toothpaste is also recommended with twice-daily brushing. It also recommends parents avoid putting babies to bed with a bottle.

It also clearly recommends against smoking and tobacco use, e-cigarettes and vaping, and alcohol consumption, stating all are harmful to oral health.

While much of the advice will be familiar to the public, the project’s leader Dr Mihiri Silva says new research into the impacts of substance use on oral health are among key updates.

“There’ve been so many advancements in the last few years about the effects, for example, of lifestyle habits like vaping and alcohol consumption,” says Silva, who is a senior lecturer at the Melbourne Dental School.

“The updated Statements also reflect the fact that the health of the mouth is closely linked with the health of the body which is the thrust of the ADA’s Dental Health Week campaign this year – ignore your brushing and flossing and it can affect your body health. That’s why there’s a lot of joined up thinking in these measures – it alerts the public to the fact that the mouth and the body don’t work separately.”

Oral disorders account for 2.3% of death-related health burden in Australia, and for 4.5% of non-fatal burden, according to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare. Hospitalisations from preventable mouth diseases like tooth decay, tissue damage, gingivitis and periodontal disease reached their highest point in 10 years in 2021, according to the AIHW.

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