The Faculty of General Dental Practice (FGDP(UK)) has welcomed the new sugar tax as a ‘game-changer’ for oral health, and says the latest data on childhood tooth extractions highlight its necessity.
The Faculty was among the organisations which campaigned for the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, which came into force on 6 April and taxes manufacturers 18 pence per litre for drinks with total sugar content above 5 grams per 100ml, and 24 pence per litre for those above 8 grams per 100ml.
A quarter of 5 year olds have tooth decay, and the latest release of figures by Public Health England shows that tooth extraction remains the number one cause of hospitalisation among 5-9 year olds, with over 35,000 children admitted each year for the procedure and 60,000 school days missed as a result.
A typical 330ml can of fizzy drink contains 35g (nine teaspoons) of sugar, well in excess of the recommended maximum total intakes of 19g a day for 4 to 6 year olds, 24g for 7 to 10 year olds, and 30g for those aged 11 or over. However, reformulation since the new tax was announced is already estimated to have removed 45 million kilograms of sugar from the UK’s annual drinks consumption, and such has been the desire of firms to avoid it that the Treasury has had to revise down its forecast annual revenue by more than half.
However with tooth decay costing the NHS £3.4bn a year, FGDP(UK) says the £240m raised by the levy should be spent on oral health promotion. The Faculty has also called for the tax to be extended to milk-based drinks, and for further restrictions on the marketing and price promotion of high sugar food and drink.
Dr Mick Horton, Dean of FGDP(UK), said:
“British adults consume three times as much sugar as we should be, and drinks remain our children’s biggest dietary source of sugar. While the latest official figures on hospital admissions of children for tooth extraction are cause enough for concern, they are only the tip of the iceberg, as tooth decay affects millions and the vast majority of treatment for this almost entirely preventable disease takes place in general dental practice.
“The Sugar Tax is a game-changer which will reinforce the message that diet is of critical importance to oral and wider health, and dentists will be delighted to finally see it in effect. Hitting the manufacturers where it hurts has already proved effective, and having to pay extra for the highest sugar drinks should also persuade more consumers to make healthier choices.”
Data on tooth extractions are available from Public Health England at http://www.nwph.net/dentalhealth/
Estimates of levy revenue and reformulation effects are from HM Treasury at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/soft-drinks-industry-levy-comes-into-effect