30 April 2018

A leading oral health charity has given their support to calls from Irish dentists to ensure that funds raised by the impending sugar tax are invested in dental health.

The Oral Health Foundation have given their full support to leading Irish dentists who are calling on the government to ring-fence €40m in revenue which expected to be generated from the new sugar tax to help educate children and families on the importance of diet and oral health in order to prevent further dental problems in Ireland. 

The new Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Tax (SSDT) comes into effect on Tuesday 1 May and will apply to sugar-sweetened drinks with a sugar content of between five and eight grams per 100ml, at a rate of 20c per litre, and 30c per litre for anything over eight grams.

The programme is designed to help prevent childhood obesity and diabetes in Ireland but has not focused on the problem of tooth decay.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: "The SSDT sadly is falls short when it comes to oral health and it does not do enough to address the crisis we have seen develop as a result of excessive sugar consumption in Ireland over recent years. 

"Childhood tooth decay is a huge problem across Ireland. A 2015 study by the Irish Dental Association found that some 10,000 extractions are carried out every year, it is an utterly heart-breaking situation and something no child should go through. 

Tooth decay is entirely preventable with a good oral health routine and diet. 

"The government have somewhat ignored oral health in the development of the SSTD and need to review how the funds will be spent to recognise the impact sugary drinks have on oral health in Ireland.

"By investing in oral health, they will be able to make a significant difference to the future of millions of children for generations to come."

Pure fruit and vegetable juices will not be taxed unless sugar is added. Dairy products will not be taxed either, nor will Soya, nut, cereal or seed-based milk substitute drinks. Alcoholic drinks or non-alcoholic beer and wine will not be subject to the new sugar tax either.

"We also feel that the sugar tax has not gone far enough in covering these products, many of them have as much or even more sugar than some soft drinks, and can be equally as damaging," Dr Carter added. 

"We feel that the SSTD must be reviewed with a greater focus on oral health, it must seriously consider putting some of the funds it generates into oral health preventive programmes in schools, which have been proven to be effective.

"We will continue to campaign to make sure oral health is no longer ignored as part of government policy and to ensure that the oral health of the nation is improved."