The tooth hurts: New campaign reveals thirsty young Aussies are sipping themselves towards horror smiles

hard-hitting campaign launched today showing gritty and graphic images will expose the serious damage regular sugary drink consumption does to teeth.

Kicking off to the sound of a soft drink can opening, the Thirsty advertisement rolls through a range of young males barrelling the camera before their appearance is shattered as they flash their grotesquely rotten smiles.

The campaign is delivered by the Rethink Sugary Drink initiative, compromising of 19 national, like-minded health and community organisations concerned about the excessive levels of consumption of sugary drinks in Australia.

Craig Sinclair, Head of Prevention at Cancer Council Victoria, a partner of Rethink Sugary Drink, hopes the campaign’s graphic portrayal of tooth decay will prompt young Aussies to realise sugary drinks are just not worth losing your teeth over.

“We know young Australians are hooked on sugary drinks. Males aged 12-24 are the biggest consumers of sugary drinks, with some consuming as much as 1.5 litres of soft drinks, sports drinks or energy drinks a day,” Mr Sinclair said.

“These drinks don’t just ruin your smile. In the long run the high levels of sugar they contain can also lead to unhealthy weight gain, which increases the risk of serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart and kidney disease, stroke and 13 types of cancer.

“We know men are twice as likely as women to consume sugary drinks, so targeted hard-hitting campaigns like this are crucial if we want to end the young Aussie male’s love affair with sugary drinks.”

Obesity Policy Coalition Executive Manager Jane Martin praises the way the campaign cuts through to younger Australians.

Thirsty ironically plays on the supposed ‘sweet’ deal sugary drink brands are selling. By cutting eerily between real snaps of rotten teeth, the advertisement mocks the way big soda plays with teen image, vanity and desire when pushing young adults to buy their products,” said Ms Martin.

While highlighting one risk associated with drinking too much sugar is a great start, Ms Martin said government leadership and investment in public education campaigns is crucial.

“At a time when nearly seven in ten Aussies are above a healthy weight, something has to change. Big beverage brands invest huge sums of money in sweet talking young people into guzzling down these drinks. We need government leadership to remove sugary drinks from healthcare settings, government workplaces, as well as sport and recreation centres.  Investment in public education campaigns is also important to support people to cut through the marketing spin and expose the health impacts of unhealthy diets like this one does,” Ms Martin said.

A/Prof Matthew Hopcraft, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch, a Rethink Sugary Drink partner, is throwing his support behind the campaign having seen these horror story smiles first hand.

“Alarmingly in 2016-17 over 70,000 hospitalisations occurred due to dental conditions. Considering tooth decay is largely preventable, these figures are incredibly concerning,” said A/Prof Hopcraft.  

“Nearly 50% of Australian children have tooth decay, and fizzy drinks are a major contributor of added sugar in their diets.”

To minimise the risk of tooth decay A/Prof Hopcraft shares one important, cost-free strategy that everyone can do.

“If Australians can simply cut back on sugary drinks or remove them entirely from their diet, their teeth will be much stronger and healthier for it,” said A/Prof Hopcraft.

“We recommend taking a look at how much sugar is in these drinks, people may be shocked to know some have as many as 16 teaspoons of sugar. Water is always the best choice and your teeth will thank you in the long run.”

Case study: James Stanley available for interview

Since realising one can of soft drink contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar, 20 year old James Stanley made the switch to water and is already reaping the health benefits.

“I used to drink soft drinks at school, but when I studied health science and PE I realised just how much sugar is actually in them.”

“On a typical night out I would drink mixers – whiskey with cola or ginger ale were my drinks of choice. I was drinking so much sugar without even realising it. Waking up the next day my teeth would feel gross and I knew I needed to make a change.”

“Now I try and look for healthier drink alternatives,” said Mr Stanley.

The campaign will run for four weeks and will be seen across digital platforms and shared widely on social media by health and community organisations.

A dedicated campaign website will provide information for young Australians about how to make further small lifestyle changes to improve their health.

Top tips to avoid sugary drinks:

  • Avoid going down the soft drink aisle at the supermarket and beware of the specials at the checkout and service stations.
  • If you're eating out, don't go with the default soft drink – see what other options there are, or just ask for water.
  • Carry a water bottle, so you don't have to buy a drink if you're thirsty.

About Rethink Sugary Drink: Rethink Sugary Drink is a partnership between the Apunipima Cape York Health Council, Australian Dental Association, Australian Dental and Oral Health Therapists’ Association, Cancer Council Australia, Dental Health Services Victoria, Dental Hygienists Association of Australia, Diabetes Australia, Healthier Workplace WA, Kidney Health Australia, LiveLighter, The Mai Wiru Sugar Challenge Foundation, Nutrition Australia, Obesity Policy Coalition, Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons, Stroke Foundation, Parents’ Voice, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the YMCA to raise awareness of the amount of sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages and encourage Australians to reduce their consumption. Visit for more information.