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This unit uses the appeal of the Guardians of the Gums superhero team to engaging young students with appealing characters and visuals. The easily understood messaging teaches students how sugar is hidden in many of the foods we consume daily, how it harmfully impacts teeth, and how to protect their teeth.

The Australian Dental Association (ada.org.au) have partnered with SugarByHalf (www.sugarbyhalf.com) to promote action on sugar-related diseases so that Australians live better, stronger and healthier lives.

Tooth decay is a largely preventable disease. Untreated tooth decay can lead to lost hours of work for parents and missed school for children. It can cause pain, infection and in severe cases hospitalisation. Australian children aged 5-9 years are the most likely to undergo potentially preventable hospitalisation due to dental diseases, with 34.3% of children aged 5-6 years experiencing decay in their primary teeth, and 23.5% of children aged 6-14 years experiencing tooth decay in their adult teeth (according to the Australian Dental Association’s Oral Health Tracker).

Poor diet is a leading cause of dental disease. On average, Australians consume 14-16 teaspoons per day. Teenagers consume more than 20. 

SugarByHalf’s message is simple: to reduce added sugar consumption by half. Eating too much added sugar is a key driver of serious health problems including obesity, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, tooth decay, dementia and mental health conditions. A poor diet also puts children behind their peers, impacting brain development, sleep and their ability to learn. Poor diet choices ultimately mean that this generation of children could be the first in modern history to live shorter lives than their parents.

Most of the added sugar in our diet comes from the processed foods and drinks we consume. Food companies add extra sugar to products because it makes them sweeter, which can make them more addictive. This means we keep coming back to those products even though they’re not particularly good for us. Adding sugar can inflate the profit margin of food companies at the expense of our health.

This science-based unit introduces students to the Guardians of the Gums, a team of plaque-fighting superheroes here to help you protect your teeth from sugary attacks. The unit explores how sugar works to create plaque and its cavity-causing effects, the ways in which sugar can be hidden in food, and teaches students how to effectively read food packaging to consider how much sugar they consume. Students will also get to practise their science communication skills by sharing their understanding of oral health with the wider community and encouraging action on dental hygiene habits.

These lessons were developed in partnership with SugarByHalf and the Australian Dental Association.