The New Zealand Ministry of Health was shocked with the results of a research carried out among the dental hospitals of the country for the last 20 years.
In its review of dental admissions to hospitals, a Ministry-commissioned report found a fourfold increase in admissions between 1990 and 2009, with the biggest spike in admissions from children aged under 8.
Moreover, children as young as 18 months, who only start cutting teeth, have them completely rotten, and they should be pulled out. Some child's teeth are dissolved down to the gum line and are bleeding.
The reason as it turned out is that parents feed their toddlers soft drinks through sipper bottles, and chocolate biscuits.
Principal dental officer for Nelson Marlborough District Health Board Rob Beaglehole recently extracted 11 teeth from a 3-year-old whose parents had let him drink Coke from a sipper bottle to "keep him happy".
Another 3-year-old needed four stainless steel crowns, had four teeth pulled and was given four fillings the child's parents put Milo in a baby bottle to sip on overnight.
All these procedures, performed under general anaesthetic, cost the Nelson Marlborough DHB about $4000 each.
Each year 35,000 children aged under 12 have rotten teeth extracted because of excessively sugary diets - mainly from sugary drinks and other junk foods.
Struggling through school with the pain and distraction of rotting teeth could cause behavioural and development problems, while the early loss of baby teeth could cause adult teeth to grow irregularly and trigger the need for braces and other orthodontic interventions, Beaglehole said.
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