4 August 2015

National statistics show that British children are getting most of their sugar from soft drinks and fruit juices, causing huge damage to their teeth.

A new report from Public Health England (PHE) shows children between the ages of 4-18 are getting a whopping 30 per cent of their sugar intake from sugary drinks, something which leading dental health charity the British Dental Health Foundation believes is putting their dental health in serious jeopardy.

Other sweet treats appearing on the list includes chocolate, breakfast cereals, biscuits and ice cream but it is the current trend towards sugary drinks which is particularly worrying for the charity.

The problem comes as soft drinks and fruit juices tend to contain very high levels of acids as well as sugar leading to both dental decay and tooth erosion.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, commented "The statistics from the PHE are something we and the British public should be very worried about but do not come as a huge surprise.

"We have been calling on the government to implement a tax on sugary drinks for some time as all the evidence points to them being one of the biggest issues facing the nation's health currently, too many children are being hospitalised for tooth extractions due to the effect sugars are having on levels of tooth decay. The NHS is being put under huge stress from sugar related dental health problems which can be massively reduced if the correct measures are put in place.

"So far the government have resisted calls and under fire Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ruled out the proposal of a sugar tax, but in the absence of a strong hand some big and welcome moves have been made elsewhere which will really shake up Britain's food industry.

"Tesco made a major statement recently by pulling high sugar drinks such as Ribena and Capri Sun from their shelves. Publicity stunt or not, this is a bold move and the public and industry are getting the message as to how damaging these drinks can be to dental health. This also shows that if the government are not going to do anything they are willing to take it into their own hands.

"Either way the British Dental Health Foundation are pleased that something is finally happening to combat our nations addiction to sugar and hopefully we will see tooth decay levels fall over the coming years."

Tooth decay happens when sugar reacts with the bacteria in plaque. This forms the acids that attack the teeth and destroy the enamel. After this happens many times, the tooth enamel may break down, forming a hole or 'cavity'. Tooth decay almost always leads to fillings and can even lead to teeth having to be removed.

Early tooth decay can have no obvious symptoms, but your dental team will be able to spot a cavity in its early stages when they examine your teeth.

This is why you should visit your dental team regularly, as small cavities are much easier to treat than advanced decay.

"Ensuring that you brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day with fluoride toothpaste is the first step in combating tooth decay and while the foundation would never deny you your favourite sweet treats, we do want to inform you on how to effectively avoid painful dental health problems," Dr Carter added.

"We have taken this opportunity to advise you on some alternatives which you could replace your sugary snacks with every now and again and have a potentially profoundly positive effect on your dental health."

1. Soft drinks and fruit juices

Water and milk are the best options as replacements, alternatively sugar free cordials offer a great alternative. You may also wish to consider drinking through a straw so the sugars bypass the teeth entirely.

2. Breakfast cereals

You could swap a sugar-coated breakfast cereal for a whole grain breakfast cereal such as porridge or shredded wheat cereal with no added sugar. Also, instead of that sprinkle of sugar swap it for fresh fruit, far tastier and counts toward one of your five a day.

3. Biscuits, cakes and sweets

Whole fruits are a great alternative, with such a huge variety of fruits in our shops there is something that everyone will like. Fruits offer many other health benefits too including boosting your vitamin levels and giving your metabolism a boost.

4. Table sugar

Moderation is key here, if you like your tea or coffee or anything else with that extra sweet edge and artificial sweeteners are not your thing then a slow cut down on how much sugar you are using will see fantastic results.

More hints and tips can be found online at www.dentalhealth.org/tell-me-about or via the Dental Helpline on 01788 53978.