Dentists call for all schools to ban sugary foods

By Neil Puffett

| 16 August 2019

All schools in England should be encouraged to become sugar free to tackle worrying levels of child tooth decay, leading dentists have said.

There have been more than 100,000 hospital admissions for children aged under 10 due to tooth decay since 2015. Picture: Morguefile

A new position statement on children's oral health published by the Royal College of Surgeons' faculty of dental surgery said the government has made some progress since the faculty launched its children's oral health campaign in 2015, such as the introduction of the soft drinks industry levy, but more needs to be done.

It said a "sugar-free" approach has already been successfully adopted by some schools in London and wants to see it implemented across the country.

Under current School Food Standards set by the Department for Education, schools are still allowed to serve desserts, cakes and biscuits at lunchtimes, and while an update to the standards has been promised, it has yet to be published.

The position statement says that as well as being distressing in itself, tooth decay can have wider consequences for children, such as making it difficult for them to sleep, eat, socialise and putting them at risk of developing acute sepsis.

"Dental pain caused by decay can also be detrimental to performance at school, affecting children's concentration in lessons and potentially requiring them to take time off for dental appointments," it states.

Analysis by the FDS has found that in the period since 2015, there have been more than 100,000 hospital admissions for children aged under 10 due to tooth decay.

It added that the most recent edition of Public Health England's Oral Health Survey of Five Year Old Children, based on figures from 2017, revealed some marked inequalities in children's oral health, with 33.7 per cent of five-year-old children living in the most deprived areas of England suffering tooth decay, compared with just 13.6 per cent of those in the least deprived areas.

Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: "It is incredibly worrying that levels of tooth decay among children in England remain so high - especially when you consider that it is almost entirely preventable through simple steps such as brushing twice a day with appropriate strength fluoride toothpaste, visiting the dentist regularly and reducing sugar consumption."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "By law, schools must provide pupils with a nutritious school meal and restrict foods high in sugar from being served as part of school lunch options. This includes a ban on drinks with added sugar, chocolate or sweets in school meals and vending machines.

"Additionally, we are in the process of updating these standards to further reduce the sugar content of school meals."

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