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Drinks Destroy Teeth reaches milestone

Indiana program tackles sugary, acidic drinks’ effect on children’s teeth

October 30, 2019

By Kimber Solana

Drinks destroy teeth graphic 

Indianapolis — An educational outreach program created by the Indiana Dental Association to combat the harmful oral health effects of popular sugary and acidic drinks is achieving two milestones next year.

Dr Buyer
Dr. Buyer
Come 2020, the Drinks Destroy Teeth website, drinksdestroyteeth.org, which offers lesson plans and supplemental resources that teachers and health care professionals, especially dentists, can use to educate children, is turning 10 years old; its accompanying mobile application will turn 5.

“The beverage industry has millions of dollars at their disposal to market products that are harmful to children’s oral health,” said Dr. Diane Buyer, creator of the outreach program. “Dentists are seeing an increase in erosion and decay in children. Our greatest tool is education.”

Dr. Buyer encourages ADA members to utilize and share the website and app in their communities to help improve public health. MouthHealthy.org, the ADA’s consumer website, promotes Drinks Destroy Teeth on its website.

Since 2013, the website has had about 203,000 visitors, according to Dr. Buyer. In 2018, it received more than 38,700 visits. The most popular page on the website is The Unsweetened Truth with 68,135 views. The page is a simple list comparing the acid pH and teaspoons of sugar in 22 common drinks, from water and milk to Gatorade and Diet Coke and Pepsi. It is in Spanish and English.

“Over the last 10 years, we estimate 30,000 lesson plans were used — reaching about 900,000 youth,” Dr. Buyer said. “This is probably a low estimate.”

The Drinks Destroy Teeth program seeks to inform consumers in Indiana about the potentially harmful oral health effects of drinking acidic and sugary drinks. Its website, which launched in 2010 and was redesigned in 2012, offers curriculum for teachers, including two lesson plans, and free downloadable fact sheets and PowerPoint presentations. The program targets 4th and 5th graders because the age group has mixed dentition, giving them the opportunity to prevent the destruction of acidic and sugary drinks on their permanent teeth, Dr. Buyer said.

Launched in 2015, the free Drinks Destroy Teeth app provides an interactive supplement to the website. It offers 3D games, glossary, quizzes and videos highlighting how acid in soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks potentially alter tooth enamel. The app also illustrates how much sugar is in various popular beverages.

“School systems began adopting tablets instead of books,” Dr. Buyer said, adding that about 60% of Indiana school systems today offer tablet-based learning, widening the potential audience of the program.

“It is tough to compete with the millions of dollars spent on soft drink marketing, but Dr. Buyer and the Drinks Destroy Teeth team are doing a terrific job raising the awareness of the harmful effects of consuming sugar-laden acidic drinks,” said Doug Bush, Indiana Dental Association executive director. “Response from school teachers has been very positive and the program has been picked up by several radio, TV and print journalists.”

Dentists and hygienists, Dr. Buyer said, use the app in their offices.

They load the program on a tablet for a patient to use in the operatory and reception rooms.

It was in 2009 when Dr. Buyer authored the article, “Are you drinking your teeth away,” for the summer issue of the Journal of the Indiana Dental Association. The article focused on how soda and sports drinks dissolve enamel.

“The article reverberated with dentists around the state who were seeing the same phenomenon,” Dr. Buyer said. “I heard from dentists from the north, south, east and west in our state and all wanted to do something about it.”

That resulted in a 2010 resolution passed by the Indiana Dental Association House of Delegates to create a statewide media and public education campaign on the health implications of soft drink consumption.

Dr. Buyer said she recognizes that dentists often meet resistance from school boards when asking to curtail soft drinks and sports drinks in schools “due to the money raised from concessions.”

“This program speaks directly to the youthful consumers about the potential decay and erosion caused by the combination of acid and sugar,” she said. “Information is power.”

For more information on Drinks Destroy Teeth, visit drinksdestroyteeth.org. The free app is available for download on Apple’s App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android users.