Parents have been warned against giving sports drinks to children amid rising concerns about sugar causing dental decay.
Dental problems in the Hunter Region have been increasing in line with the rise in sugar consumption.
NSW Health data for the Hunter-New England region shows 12,856 adults were on the public waiting list for dental treatment in December last year.
Mark Morrin, president of the Newcastle division of the Australian Dental Association NSW Branch, said "there's 2500 potentially preventable hospitalisations in the Hunter-New England district for dental every year".
"That's up by 1000 from 15 years ago," Dr Morrin said.
This doesn't include people getting treated privately for dental problems.
"It's actual hospitalisations," he said.
With community sport and gym-use returning with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, dentists are warning about the dangers of sports drinks.
"They're really high in sugar and acidity, which is a bit of a double whammy," Dr Morrin said.
"Acidity and sugar together will increase the chances of decay. If they [sports drinks] are used for a long period of time, they can even cause teeth erosion."
Dr Morrin said sipping sports drinks frequently around exercise was particularly problematic.
"You're doing it when you're dehydrated, which is when your saliva doesn't give you natural protection against it," he said.
He said there was "no real reason" for children and adults to have sports drinks.
"Water is still by far the best drink," he said.
Research from the Rethink Sugary Drinks campaign shows one 600ml bottle of sports drink contains about 36 grams of sugar - equivalent to nine teaspoons.
The campaign is also concerned about the amount of sugar in soft, fruit, cordial and energy drinks. These types of drinks can contain up to 17 teaspoons of sugar.
People should be aware of how marketing affects their decisions to buy sports drinks. Dr Morrin highlighted how professional sports teams promote such drinks, despite their poor health effects.
He has treated professional sports people, many of whom show dental decay from "sipping on sports drinks".
Dr Morrin said the so-called "bliss point" had been exposed in a documentary called That Sugar Film.
The bliss point is the "perfect amount of sugar" that companies put in food and drink to encourage people to want more.
Research shows sugar is the main cause of tooth decay.
"Decay rates have definitely increased pretty dramatically in children in general," he said.
"Ten years ago, it would be rare to see a child because they need a filling. Now it's rare that one doesn't need a filling."
Young children who still have their baby teeth have been hospitalised for dental treatment.
"Dental disease is the most prevalent disease in the world and probably the most preventable. It's ridiculous."
The Australian Dental Association NSW branch is pushing for a 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.
"Mexico has a sugar drink tax. Their consumption has gone down," Dr Morrin said.
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