16 JANUARY 2019

The last 12 months has been a landmark year for oral health.

As a charity, we have been able to provide information, advice and support to some of the most at-need communities around the UK.  We have also been delighted to see a number of new policies introduced that will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the population’s health and wellbeing.   

An unexpected announcement of a sugar levy has proven extremely successful, while the decision to vaccinate boys for HPV will protect millions of men from mouth cancer.

Last year saw some great strides being made for better oral health but what do we expect to see in 2019? Here are our top five predictions for dentistry this year.

  1. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for boys will roll-out in September 2019 and save countless lives

The government announced last year that September 2019 will see the culmination of years of hard work of campaigners. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination will be extended to include 12-13-year-old boys. It is estimated to protect around 400,000 boys from HPV every year1.

There are over 200 different types of HPV. Almost all sexually active people will get the disease at some stage in their lives and most will not face any problems. However, there are some strands which are associated with several different cancers, including mouth cancer.

The group HPV Action estimates that 2,000 men each year develop cancer caused by HPV.

The rollout of the vaccination will build on the success of the girls’ programme, which has already reduced the prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) 16 and 18, the main cancer-causing types, by over 80%2.

We predict that the new vaccination programme will help significantly reduce the number of cases of mouth cancer and protect future generations from this devastating virus.

  1. Amendment to the current sugar tax

At the start of the year, Public Health England issued shocking figures showing that by age ten the average UK child has exceeded the maximum recommended sugar intake for that of an 18-year-old.

This might not come as much of a surprise for health workers. Tooth extraction remains the most common reason for hospital admissions in five-to-nine year-olds. Figures show around 141 children a day – some just a year-old – are having teeth removed. This means around 60,000 days are missed from school during the year, as well as causing problems with eating, sleeping and even smiling.3

This year we predict the government will heed this wake-up call and look at amending the sugar tax to include items such as milkshakes and fruit juices, which are currently exempt.

Milkshakes and fruit juices often contain high amounts of sugar. For example, a Friji milkshake (400ml), which is currently exempt from the sugar tax, contains over 10 teaspoons of sugar. In fact, a Friji chocolate milkshake contains only 0.5g less sugar per 100ml than a bottle of Coke yet one is included in the sugar tax, and one is not. 

Clearly, more needs to be done to protect our children’s teeth from decay. While it won’t completely solve the problem, a more comprehensive sugar tax would be a good place to start.

  1. Rise in mouth cancer cases

Last November, we published the very first State of Mouth Cancer Report. It revealed the number of people diagnosed with mouth cancer in the UK has increased by an alarming 135% over the last 20 years.  More than 8,300 Brits were given the news they have mouth cancer last year while the disease took the life of 2,722 people.

Our State of Mouth Cancer Report also found that three in four adults did not know the major signs and symptoms of mouth cancer. More work needs to be done to improve the public’s understanding of the disease and how they can spot it before it’s too late.

While the rollout of the HPV vaccination will help reduce cases, it is unlikely to have a significant impact on rates of cancer in the near future. We expect that 2019 will see an increase in cases of the disease but through our public campaigns, and with the help of the dental industry, we can increase public awareness and limit its impact.

  1. Pudding Tax will not be included in the 2019 autumn budget despite calls from the health industry

While the sugar tax brought the health risks of consuming very sugary drinks to the public’s attention, food continues to go under the radar. Often containing many hidden sugars, products such as cakes, biscuits and puddings are exempt from the tax.

Public Health England launched a sugar reduction programme in 2017 to encourage manufactures to voluntarily reduce the sugar content of various products. This does not seem to have been effective.

By introducing a ‘pudding tax’, companies would be held fully responsible for the amount of sugar in their products. Such a tax however would not be popular with manufacturers. Others have also raised concerns that any further tax would hit the poorest hard.

While on paper a pudding tax could prove successful, it might not be the most effective way of tackling this problem. Due to the complexity of the UK’s sugar problem we predict we won’t see a pudding tax this year. However, given how much money the current sugar levy has raised (£154m),  something similar might not be far away.

  1. Growth in demand for cosmetic dentistry

A recent survey carried out by RealSelf, found that 40% of Brits want to improve their teeth with whitening, veneers or Invisalign.4  The survey of more than 1,000 UK adults found that over three in four (76%) of respondents wanted to change something about their face or body. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest demand for cosmetic treatment are in the 18-34 year-olds. Over two-thirds of young people said they are thinking about having non-surgical treatment within the next 12-months.

Interestingly, it was cosmetic dentistry, not Botox or fillers, which topped the list of the most desired improvement. This shows the growing importance people are putting on the appearance of their smile.

Over the last five years we have also been successful in campaigning for legal and safe tooth whitening.  As a result, more people now know that it is illegal for beauticians to carry out cosmetic dental treatments.  This will lead more people contacting dental practices for a ‘pearly white’ smile.

In 2019, we expect a further rise in cosmetic dental treatment.


  1. HPV Action, Gender neutral vaccination, http://www.hpvaction.org/gender-neutral-vaccination.html
  2. NHS Long Term Plan, released January 2019
  3. uk, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/every-10-minutes-a-child-in-england-has-a-rotten-tooth-removed
  4. Dental Review, https://www.dentalreview.news/dentistry/20-cosmetic-dental-surgery/4113-realself-survey-reveals-uk-dental-demand