The British Association for Community Dentistry (BASCD), the UK’s professional association for the science, philosophy and practice of promoting the oral health of populations and groups in society welcomes the results of a study published today which shows links between the UK soft drinks levy and a fall in hospital extractions for children. The study found the levy was associated with a 5,638 reduction in hospital admissions for tooth decay alone. The largest reductions were in children aged up to nine years old.
Sugar-sweetened drinks contribute to around 30% of the added sugar intake for children aged one to three and over half of the added sugar in late adolescence. Sugar consumption is one of the main causes of tooth decay. Data from England suggests that nearly 90% of all tooth extractions in young children are because of tooth decay
The UK government announced a soft drinks industry levy or ‘sugar tax’, in 2016, which was implemented in April 2018. The tax is an ambitious public health policy to reduce sugar intake by encouraging drinks manufacturers to reformulate their products. The researchers used hospital data on tooth extraction from January 2014 to February 2020 and population figures for children aged 0–18 years in England in 2020. The study found reductions for carious tooth extractions in children aged 0-18 years regardless of deprivation. Greater reductions (relative reductions of 28.6% (95% CI 35.6% to 21.5%) for children aged 0-4 and 5-9 years were observed.
Professor David Conway, a BASCD member, co-author, and professor of dental public health at University of Glasgow said: “Tooth extractions under general anaesthesia is among the most common reasons for children to be admitted to hospital across the UK. This study shows that ambitious public health policies such as a tax on sugary drinks can impact on improving child oral health.”
Professor Mairead Harding, BASCD president said “Tooth decay is preventable and this study shows the benefits of taking ambitious measures to reduce sugar in our diets. This brave move tackling sugar consumption has the ability to impact a number of chronic conditions. For many children unfortunately, tooth extractions in hospital under general anaesthesia is still too common, .with children missing schooldays, parents/carers time off work and lost sleep. BASCD will continue to advocate for further changes to the food environment so that our children consume less sugar”
Further measures are required to decrease the amount of sugar in our diets, and BASCD continue to call for actions to achieve this goal. These include reducing the presence of free sugars in food and beverages, minimising the availability of high-sugar food products, providing education to encourage reduced sugar intake, and implementing measures to reduce the overall quantity of sugar sold. These actions will reduce the adverse impact of sugar on our well-being and improve dental health.