ARARAT oral health therapist Lauren Milloy's work with children has been highlighted with the Victorian Champion of Oral Public Health award.
The annual awards are presented by Dental Health Services Victoria and recognise public oral health professionals, volunteers and organisations that work to improve dental health outcomes.
Ms Milloy has worked at the East Grampians Health Service for just over three years and spends her days teaching children how to best care for their teeth and gums.
Ms Milloy regularly visits 13 schools, four kindergartens and three early learning centres in the Ararat region as part of an outreach program.
"It's good fun," she said. "It's pretty enjoyable to spend time with the kids talking about healthy eating and healthy dental behaviour, and talking about what they do and don't know."
Ms Milloy said children knew quite a bit about brushing their teeth and treating sugary foods like chocolate as a "sometimes" food.
She said another part of her role was to get the message out about other sugary foods that are marketed as healthy lunchbox options.
"Kids are really good with how often they should brush their teeth so sometimes it's just knowing which foods have a lot of sugar in them - there's some surprise ones," she said.
"Fruit juices - kids will think it's healthy because it's a fruit juice but it can be full of sugar. All those fruit pouch things - they sound good but they are not quite so great."
Ms Milloy said it could be helpful for parents to put sugary foods in two categories - every day foods and sometimes foods.
World Health Organisation guidelines recommend limiting the intake of 'free sugars' to 10 per cent of total energy intake, referring to sugars added to food by the manufacturer, cook or consumer.
Ms Milloy said schools and kindergartens also did a good job teaching children about oral health.
"I think they are very aware, and it's continuing the message as they grow," she said.
"I also do activities with the kids, so ... we might look at food labels or discuss how dental decay can be painful, so they get the idea."
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