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Surge in sugar consumption by children decaying dental health

Posted:  Monday, September 07, 2015

With varying options of sugary drinks, chocolates and other foodstuffs, children nowadays are spoilt for choice. However, with such sugary foods, the cases of cavities also seem to be going up. To address this rising concern in UK, the British Dental Health Foundation is supporting a campaign led by an oral health charity against excess sugar.

As part of this campaign, English celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has developed a documentary which looks into the devastating effects of sugar consumption on children’s dental health in UK. Due to its insidious nature, tooth decay is often not detected in time.

So, how does sugar contribute to tooth decay? The bacteria in plaque react with sugar to form acids. These acids destroy the enamel and with repeated attacks, the destruction manifests as a cavity or hole. Filling the cavity is one of the solutions and in worst cases, tooth extraction is recommended.

Talking about how rampant tooth decay is, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation said, “Shockingly, a recent study found half of eight year olds have visible signs of decay on their teeth and a third of children are starting school with visible signs of tooth decay. Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospitalisation in children and while we cannot blame the food and drink industry entirely, they do have to take a sizable portion of the blame. We believe that if decisive action is not taken soon, then all of our dental health, not just children's, will continue to suffer the consequences.”

According to Dr. Carter, public attention has been garnered against sugar and hence it is time to suggest measures for rectification. The British Dental Association completely endorses the measures enlisted in ‘Jamie’s Sugar Manifesto'. These include:

    • Putting a 20 pence levy per litre on every soft drink containing added sugar

    • Legislation of the responsibility deal allowing the government to set guidelines that must legally be followed by the food and drinks industry

    • Penalties to be implemented on any food and drink companies that do not reach the targets.

    • An extension of the regulations banning junk food marketing on TV to 9pm

    • Creation of more robust digital marketing regulations on junk food to cover all non-broadcast media

    • Making traffic light labelling compulsory on all packaging

    • Showing sugar content in teaspoons on the front of packaging

In conclusion, early examination to detect and treat cavities as well as enforcing a health levy could indeed make a difference in sugar consumption and dental health.

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