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Switch to Water Challenge launches on National Oral Health Day

New Zealand’s Dental Association (NZDA) is asking Kiwis to ditch sugary drinks for the month of November as part of the NZDA’s annual Switch to Water Challenge.

This year’s 30-day challenge launches on 1 November to coincide with New Zealand’s National Oral Health Day and aims to put the spotlight squarely on the negative role sugar plays in our diet.

The Dental Association is thrilled to have former Olympian and Black Sticks hockey player Brooke Neal back onboard this year to help promote the challenge and support participants.

"Water is my go-to drink of choice for maintaining physical and mental wellbeing," says Neal.

"During my time as a sportswoman, it was important to stay well hydrated and water is the best choice for that. What is less appreciated is its role in supporting positive mental health," she says.

"The 30-day challenge offers everyone a fun way to do something positive for their health and wellbeing ahead of summer and the sugar laden temptations that go with the festive season."

Research reveals Kiwis consume around 37 teaspoons of sugar per day and that’s having a hugely detrimental effect on their health. Adults should ideally not consume more than 6 teaspoons per day, and children not more than 3-4 per day.

Sugary drinks are a leading cause of tooth decay and contribute significantly to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and many other health problems. Currently, nearly two thirds of adults and one third of children are either overweight or obese in New Zealand.

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In recent years, upwards of 30,000 children a year have had one or more teeth removed due to dental decay through the Community Oral Health Service or through the public hospital system.

NZDA President Dr Amanda Johnston says switching from sugary drinks for water has benefits for your whole body, but especially your mouth.

"As a general dentist in Whāngarei, I see so much damage caused by high sugar drinks. They have no health benefits and are a leading cause of tooth decay in children," says Johnston.

"If your children or grandchildren are thirsty, show you love them by giving them water. Water is the best option for good health, and it’s the cheapest also."

This year’s Switch to Water Challenge launches on 1 November with an event featuring Brooke Neal at Papatoetoe East School in South Auckland.

Visit to learn more, check out prizes are on offer, and register your participation by 15 November 2023.

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