Schools pave way to healthier teeth by going 'water-only'

Charlie, 5, and Jack, 8, make sure they take a full water bottle to school every day.
SHANI WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Charlie, 5, and Jack, 8, make sure they take a full water bottle to school every day.

Two Auckland schools are taking a stand against rotten teeth by adopting 'water-only' policies. 

Point Chevalier Primary School and Onehunga Primary School have scrapped all sugary drinks and replaced them with water and milk. 

The water-only initiative is part of the Adopt a School program run by the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) and toothpaste company Colgate - where local dentists are challenged to adopt a school.  

The "adopting" dentist holds ongoing presentations at the school, erect posters explaining the benefits of water and distribute toothbrushes and toothpaste to all pupils. 

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The "adopted" school stops the sale of fizzy drinks, flavoured milk and fruit juices and imposes a complete ban of these drinks on the school premises. 

Dentist Puja Singh from Meola Dental recruited Point Chevalier Primary School in September 2016.

"Dentists see first-hand the damage sugar does to children's teeth and sugary drinks are a leading cause of dental decay," Singh said.

The water-only initiative provided a platform for dentists to make change within their communities, Singh said.

"I love the program - if every dentist adopted just one school, it would completely change the health of New Zealand's children."

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The two schools have a combined roll of 1400 students, but there had been no issues with the kids or parents complaining, Singh said. 

Singh is planning to recruit another school this year.

Mother Carrie Dean has two children at Pt Chevalier Primary School and is a big supporter of the initiative.

"In my opinion, it is a no brainer - every school in Auckland should be water only."

There was no reason for young people to come in from lunch on a sugar high at school, Dean said. 

Dean said the water-only message had influenced her kids' food and drink choices at home.

"Not only do they always choose water over sugary drinks but their eating habits have improved."

This was important considering a lot of New Zealand families were affected by diabetes and heart disease due to an unhealthy diet, Dean said.

Jackson Dean, 8, said he would choose water over juice any day because it does "a better job of hydrating and refreshing him after he plays sport".

The schools encourage a "full water bottle" policy in the classroom, so students have access to water at all times.

A recent Ministry of Health report said tooth health was a serious issue in Auckland  - with 42 per cent of 5-year-olds and 39 per cent of 12-year-olds having tooth decay or cavities. 

In 2015 29,000 children in New Zealand had rotten teeth removed.

Thirty schools across New Zealand turned "water-only" in 2016 and NZDA and Colgate aimed to adopt 30 more in 2017. 

 - Stuff

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