Victoria's sweet toothache: 12% of Victorians gulping soft drink every day

13 June 2014

The coalition of health organisations behind the Rethink Sugary Drink campaign is encouraging Victorians to cut down on soft drink, following the release of new figures revealing that 12% of Victorian adults drink soft drink every day, contributing to significant levels of tooth decay and erosion.

The figures also reveal the Victorian local government areas with the largest soft drink habit like Mildura, Colac and Pyrenees, with almost 20% of their populations drinking soft drink every day.

These new figures are based on 79 comprehensive oral health profiles, created by Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV) in partnership with local governments across the state, designed to help councils with planning and program development.

DHSV CEO, Dr Deborah Cole said local government is well placed to plan population health and wellbeing programs.

"These figures highlight how specific behaviours and lifestyle factors impact oral health and their prevalence in each local government area. They include soft drink consumption, tobacco use, diet, oral hygiene habits and other influencers," Dr Cole said.

Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, which include all non-alcoholic water based beverages with added sugar such as soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks and sports drinks, have a big impact on oral health.

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth that uses sugar from foods and drinks to produce acids that dissolve and damage the teeth. Soft drinks have high levels of sugar and drinking these regularly can significantly contribute to tooth decay. Soft drinks also have high acid levels that dissolve the outer surface of tooth enamel leading to tooth erosion, according to Dr Cole.

Consumption of sugary drinks is also associated with a range of serious health issues including weight gain and obesity, which in turn are risk factors for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

DHSV CEO, Dr Deborah Cole said good oral health is crucial for overall health and wellbeing and yet, while being largely preventable, tooth decay remains Victoria's most prevalent health problem - five times more prevalent than asthma.

"There are strong links between lifestyle behaviours such as drinking soft drink and increased risk of tooth decay and other dental issues. Many people might not know this but dental conditions are the most common cause of potentially preventable hospitalisation in young Victorians under 19 years with the most common cause being tooth decay in children," she said.

Craig Sinclair, Chair of the Public Health Committee at Cancer Council Australia, says these new figures show that we have a serious problem with soft drink consumption here in Victoria.

"Sugary drinks shouldn't be part of a daily diet, yet it is clear that as much as a fifth of the population in some areas are drinking them every day. Given that a regular 600ml soft drink contains about 16 teaspoons of sugar, this is a dangerous level of consumption that can lead to serious health issues for the population including tooth decay." said Mr Sinclair.

About the figures

The oral health profiles were released to inform health promotion planning process including the finalisation of the local government Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plans (MPHWPs), a key strategic planning mechanism for public health and wellbeing efforts at the community level. A complete list of local oral health profiles, with soft drink consumption data available for each Local Government Area, is available at