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The Tooth Hurts When It Comes To Kids’ Cavities


  • Half of surveyed Kiwi parents with kids aged 6-12 say their children have suffered from tooth decay
  • Surveyed parents say one fifth of kids in this age group are only brushing their teeth once a day

 To mark the launch of its new formula Maximum Cavity Protection toothpaste, Colgate-Palmolive has today released new research[1], which surveyed parents of children aged 6-12, to understand New Zealand’s cavity issue. The study found that 76% of Kiwi parents surveyed and nearly half (49%) of children have suffered from tooth decay, with one in five (20%) of these children experiencing symptoms of the disease in the last 12 months.

Cavities remain the most common chronic disease amongst New Zealand children[2]. Colgate’s new Maximum Cavity Protection toothpaste has been designed to help fight tooth decay by neutralising sugar acids and providing 4x enamel protection [3].

Dental health is one of the top concerns for New Zealand parents. In fact, more than two in five (44%) of the parents surveyed said they are worried about the health of their children’s teeth and nearly half (45%) admitted they need more support and guidance when it comes to instilling good oral health habits.

The research revealed that 36% of parents surveyed cite brushing their children’s teeth as a parenting pain point, with half of children between the ages of six and 12 not brushing their teeth for the recommended two minutes per session (51%) and 20% of children in this age group are only brushing their teeth once a day.

Of the 74% of parents surveyed who said they face challenges when it comes to brushing their children’s teeth, the need for supervision (41%), the morning rush (36%) and kids wanting to eat after brushing their teeth (34%) were cited as the most common barriers to brushing.

Dr Susan Cartwright, Scientific Affairs Manager, Colgate Oral Care says: “Tooth decay is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in children. It is even more common than asthma, which many parents may find surprising. In New Zealand, one in 6 children between the ages of 2 and 11 years have untreated tooth decay in their primary teeth.”

“Our new formula toothpaste, with arginine and fluoride technology, has taken eight years of clinical research to perfect. It can help protect teeth from decay. Studies show that this paste can provide up to 50% reduction in the signs of early decay. It’s important to get in the habit of good oral care early in life as if left untreated, tooth decay can lead to serious health issues such as infection and loss of teeth,” Dr Cartwright said.

Demystifying Cavities

The research also revealed that misconceptions around the cause of tooth decay are prominent amongst Kiwi parents, with 48% assuming overconsumption of sugary food and drinks are the key culprits, and one in four (23%) believing that cavities happen to everyone.

“It’s common for people to think that it is large quantities of sugary food and drinks that cause cavities, but that’s not the case, frequent snacking also contributes to kids developing dental decay. Cavities are almost entirely preventable, with a healthy diet, a twice daily brushing routine with the right toothpaste and regular visits to your dental professional. Cavities don’t happen to everyone, and they shouldn’t,” Dr Cartwright said.

Another common misconception uncovered through the study includes the notion that tooth decay in children with baby teeth is less of an issue than when they have adult teeth, with 14% of parents surveyed believing this.

Dr Cartwright explains, “If you have dental decay, you have a disease process in your mouth that needs to be addressed. If you have this happening as a young child and habits are not corrected, it is likely to continue into adulthood. Therefore, having decay in baby teeth is something that requires attention.”

Parents with children aged 6-12 who face challenges when brushing their children’s teeth cited the following challenges around instilling a healthy brushing routine with their kids:

  • Supervision: Most common challenge faced is children need supervision and/or help while brushing their teeth (41%)
  • Morning rush: Getting ready in the morning is always such a rush that they never have time to brush their teeth (36%)
  • Eating before bed: Children always want to eat something before bedtime/after they brush their teeth (34%)
  • Sitting still: One in five say their children don’t sit still/get fidgety/wiggle around (24%)

Setting a Good Example

But it’s not just children that are sometimes lacking in the oral care department. Two in five (41%) of the parents surveyed say they forget to brush their own teeth before bed, one third (33%) forget to brush in the morning, and 43% say they don’t brush their teeth for the recommended two minutes.

The guilt and repercussions of bad oral health habits weighs heavily amongst parents, with seven in ten (68%) saying they wish they had taken better care of their teeth when they were younger and 57% admitting they could be setting a better example to their children when it comes to oral care habits.

Colgate is working towards a cavity free future as they believe that everyone deserves a future they can smile about. “It’s up to us as adults to ensure we are setting an example for our kids and teaching them to use the correct amount of toothpaste, brushing for two minutes, and brushing twice a day,” Dr Cartwright said.

The new Maximum Cavity Protection toothpaste range will be packaged in Colgate’s recyclable toothpaste tube, a first of its kind for New Zealand, meaning New Zealanders can recycle their tube by following their local council guidelines for recycling HDPE 2 plastic, teaching young Kiwis the benefits of recycling from an early age.

The Colgate® Maximum Cavity Protection toothpaste range is available in all major supermarkets across New Zealand from October 2021, in three sizes and two variants from $3.39 RRP[4].

For more information on the Colgate Maximum Cavity Protection toothpaste range, please visit, or to learn more about Colgate-Palmolive’s sustainability initiatives, visit:

[1] Colgate-Palmolive, YouGov, 2021, Base: n= 523 New Zealand parents with a child aged 6-12 years

[2] New Zealand Medical Association, ‘Severe early childhood caries: a modern (neglected) epidemic?’, Philip J Schluter, Jesse Kokaua, Martin Lee

[3] Mineral loss vs. regular fluoride toothpaste after 10 applications in an in-mouth study, 1000 and 1450 ppm fluoride

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