ORAL health statistics in the Hunter New England Health District are enough to wipe the smile off a dentist's face.
The number of patients being hospitalised by preventable dental conditions has risen by 50 per cent since 2001, HealthStats NSW data shows.
There's three pillars to good oral health, Gunnedah dentist of 30 years Michael Jonas said, and that's looking after teeth, controlling the bacteria in the mouth and the food people eat.
"Tamworth is one of the oldest communities in Australia to have fluoridated water," he said.
"I have patients who are 50 years old with no dental disease at all, but the increase appears to be in children and younger adults and that's a worrying trend.
"What's the culprit, and I hate to bang on about it, but it happens to be sugary drinks and snack foods - a can of coke has 10 teaspoons of sugar."
One of the issues that causes poor dental health is a lack of access to affordable dental care, 2 million Australians who needed it in the last year didn't get it because of the cost.
The Grattan Institute released a report into a universal dental care scheme for Australia, and estimated it would cost $5.6 billion each year.
There wasn't a great deal of controversy about it ... but somewhere in the middle of that mix is politicians.Michael Jonas
It recommended the Medicare-like scheme be phased in over 10 years.
The scheme wouldn't provide braces for every child in Australia, but it would allow for basic preventative and restorative care, Dr Jonas said.
"There wasn't a great deal of controversy about it, the Australian Dental Association supports it but somewhere in the middle of that mix is politicians," he said.
"The economists say it can be done."
Dentists recommend a check-up every six months.
Under the federal government Child Dental Benefit Schedule, families can get up to $1000 worth of dental care in the practice of their choice over two years.
Preventative dental healthcare is important because the mouth doesn't exist in isolation from general wellbeing, Dr Jonas said.
"If you have bad teeth, the chance of having a bad diet is increased and the chance of diabetes is increased," he said.
"It's many factorial, it's down to access to dental care, lack of flouride in some water supplies, lack of knowledge about preventative dental procedures you can do at home."
To keep oral health in check the Australian Dental Association recommends brushing twice daily with a toothpaste that contains fluoride and cleaning between teeth once daily with floss or an interdental brush.
It also suggests a healthy, balanced diet.