Could The Magic Dentist help?
June 13, 2016
Children's Oral Health - Could 'The Magic Dentist' Help?
The so-called sugar tax announced by The Chancellor in the Budget has been billed as an attempt to tackle childhood obesity – currently at record levels. The levy is targeted at drinks companies not, as is the case with for example tobacco products, at consumers. It comes into effect in 2018 and the amount of tax will depend on the quantity of sugar – 5g of sugar per 100ml will incur a 18p per litre levy. It is thought drinks manufacturers may cut the amount of sugar in drinks or simply pass on the cost to consumers. Research by Diabetes UK found that 43 per cent of people would buy fewer soft drinks if the price rose by 20 per cent. Public Health England, welcomed the announcement as ‘fabulous news for children and families in helping them to cut back on sugar’.
Sugar and children’s teeth?
The evidence of the detrimental effect of sugar on children’s teeth has been building over many years, causing Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the (then) British Dental Health Foundation, to say in August 2015: “The effects that sugar consumption is having on children's dental health cannot be understated.”
Healthcare Improvement Scotland states in Preventing dental caries in children at high caries risk: ‘Although there are many risk factors for dental caries, the local effect of dietary sugars has a fundamental role in the disease.’
It goes on to state: ‘…the key observation is that increasing the frequency of sugar intake increases the odds of developing dental caries, whilst lowering sugar intake can reduce it.’
Dental caries in children – good and bad news
The recently released results of the third National Dental Epidemiology Programme for England, oral health survey of five-year-old children, 2015 show that:
75.2% of five-year-old children in England whose parents gave consent for participation in this survey had no experience of obvious dental decay – the third consecutive survey showing an improvement.
This is the good news. The bad news is the large variations across the country. In the north and in the more deprived local authority areas. London, the North West, North East and Yorkshire and The Humber had the highest percentages of five-year-olds with one or more teeth extracted due to dental decay.
What effect will the sugar tax have?
This is the big question and we can only make an educated guess at the answer. It seems possible or even probable that the levels of sugar in drinks will be reduced by the manufacturers and that the likely increase in price will mean consumers buying fewer soft drinks.
There are, however, so many other factors relating to dental caries in children that the impact of the above may be minimal. Referring again to the survey above, it states that the improving trend in reduction of dental decay in five-year-olds may be the result of higher levels of fluoride in children’s toothpaste, the increasing focus on prevention in general dental practice, wide dissemination of messages about twice daily brushing and spitting out not rinsing and, in some parts of the country, oral health improvement programmes.
Given the variations in oral health across the country it seems that to complement any positive effect of the sugar tax, action needs to be taken at local level. Public Health England has already published Improving oral health: an evidence-informed toolkit for local authorities and NICE guidelines [PH55] Oral health: local authorities and partners have also been available for some time.
I think we can say the sugar tax may be one big step for the Government but only one small step for childhood dental caries. But could The Magic Dentist help? My new book is written in rhyming verse and is perfect for parents to buy to prepare children for a visit to the dentist. Equally, because it is wriiten line with guidance from PHE, it is ideal for educational purposes in dental practice or primary schools.
If you are interested in buying a copy, please contact me at email@example.com.