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An Investigation into Parents' Awareness of Effects of Commercial Fruit Beverages on Their Children's Teeth
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Good dental health is essential to overall health and has strong linkage with people’s self-esteem, employability and quality of life. Poor dental health can be a major burden to individuals, families and nations. Good dental habits practiced during childhood have long-term benefits later in life. Dental caries and tooth erosion are common public health problems affecting children. These can be attributed to increased amount and frequency of intake of sugar and low pH foods. Many studies worldwide and in New Zealand highlight tooth wear in children, which can in part be attributed to frequent consumption of fruit juices. Both natural and added sugars in home-made or commercial fruit beverages can affect dental health, however, commercial fruit beverages are more easily accessible and storable than home-made beverages, so are more frequently consumed. This quantitative study assessed parents' knowledge of effects of commercial fruit beverages (any store-bought drink that contained 5% or more fruit) on their children's teeth. This study used a mixed-mode, anonymous survey for data collection using online and paper questionnaires. Questions were focused on participants’ knowledge, awareness and practices towards their children’s consumption of fruit beverages in relation to controlling early childhood caries and erosion. Parents/guardians of children aged between 1-10 years and living in the Auckland region were invited to participate in the survey. Participants’ oral health literacy level was assessed through label-reading of their preferred brand and sub-brand; the factors that influence the choice of the juice were also identified. Since most of the participants in the present study were European women aged above thirty and from higher socioeconomic background, the results indicate that the oral health awareness in this group is reasonable. Price and availability of the beverage and child’s liking for its sweet taste were the important considerations for choosing a brand. A majority of the respondents agreed that the availability of store-bought drinks increase the amount and frequency of fruit beverage consumption in children. There was a modest correlation between awareness level and the ethnicity, age, education and family income of the respondents, however there was no significant association between the awareness level and number of children the respondents had. Understanding of the difference between fruit juice and a fruit drink was considerably low among the respondents. This might be compounded by the unclear labelling of the beverages. Accordingly, there is a need to improve oral health literacy of parents and caregivers in addition to developing standards for more explicit labelling. Advocacy actions should also take the erosive potential of fruit beverages into account in addition to their sugar contents.