In Wales, surveys have shown 35% of 5 year olds and 30% of 12 year olds experience of tooth decay. In addition, survey reports also show 43.7% of adults aged 18-25 years have decayed teeth and 65% have filled teeth. Tooth decay can be prevented, and individuals from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities have higher rates of sugar consumption and tooth decay. By minimising sugar intake, we can significantly contribute to the reduction of tooth decay and address disparities in oral health.
In the UK, we have the highest frequency of retail price promotions across Europe, with noticeable variations in the prices of nutritious foods compared to those high in sugar. Items classified as HFSS are predominantly purchased during promotional periods, often impulsively. Consequently, individuals end up buying and consuming more sugar than initially intended due to these promotional offers. According to the recent Time to Talk Public Health panel conducted by Public Health Wales, a significant majority of individuals in Wales are in favour of government initiatives aimed at helping them in making healthier choices1.
In 2022, BASCD released a position statement on recommended actions to reduce the consumption of free sugars to improve oral health2. This includes the support of actions to restrict the marketing and promotion of sugar-containing products. Our position statement outlines the need for restrictions of multi-buy, buy one get one free (BOGOF) and other deals that encourage people to buy and consume more HFSS foods and drinks. We also support restrictions on the placement of HFSS food and drink products, including checkouts, store entrances, aisle ends and their online equivalents to support people to make healthier choices and reduce the ‘pester power’ from children.
Maria Morgan, who was the lead for the Welsh Oral Health Information Unit and is a Past President of BASCD said:
Extensive research provides ample evidence of the detrimental effects of excessive consumption of sugar, fat, and salt on our overall health and well-being. In our 2022 position statement, BASCD (British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry) highlighted the harmful consequences of sugar and the need for these changes. Despite being a preventable condition, dental caries remains a significant issue affecting both children and adults. BASCD recommends and supports implementing measures to limit the availability and promotional pricing of products that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. These actions are expected to have a beneficial impact on dental health.
BASCD are encouraged to see that Wales has committed to these important changes to restrict the promotion of HFSS foods3 which will make a difference to the amount of sugar that people are consuming, contributing to better oral health.
Further measures are required to effectively decrease sugar consumption in our diets, and we 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.
BASCD is the leading professional society in the UK for the science, philosophy and practice of promoting oral health in society.
- Public Health Wales. 2023. Strong public support for government action against obesity. Available from: https://phw.nhs.wales/news/strong-public-support-for-government-action-against-obesity/(Accessed June 2023)
- BASCD. 2022. Position statement on recommended actions to reduce the consumption of free sugars and improve oral health. Available from: https://www.bascd.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/BASCD-Position-Statement-Free-Sugars-2022-final-version.pdf (Accessed June 2023)
- Welsh Government. 2023. Press Release: Restriction on high fat, sugar and salt products to be introduced. Available from: Available from: https://www.gov.wales/restriction-high-fat-sugar-and-salt-products-be-introduced (Accessed June 2023)
Author: J.A. Holloway, Specialty Registrar in Dental Public Health