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Now is the time to invest in children's smiles in Wales

Blog Author David Johnson

Blog Date 15/03/2017

​We’re asking our dentists to help spread the message about the detrimental impact sugar can have on patient’s teeth, and to help highlight the shocking state of oral health amongst some groups of children in Wales.


The sugar levy is going to come into force in April 2018, across the UK. This will be a tax on soft drinks such as carbonated drinks, dilutables and still drinks that contain high levels of added sugar. The levy will tax 18p per litre on soft drinks containing 5g of sugar per 100ml and 24p per litre on soft drinks containing 8g of sugar per 100ml.


We’ve said that the sugar levy is a great opportunity for the Welsh government to invest in preventing children’s tooth decay across all age groups. We know that dental decay requiring multiple extractions is the number one reason why five to nine year-olds are being admitted to hospital; this is a shocking fact.


Currently, these children are receiving little to no formal education about their oral health, as they are not covered by the Designed to Smile initiative – we’ve asked for the money from the sugar levy to be used to protect these children’s smiles and also those of older kids and teenagers too.


Quite frankly, we think it’s embarrassing that Welsh children’s oral health is still lagging significantly behind their English counterparts. Dental decay is present in 35 per cent of five- year olds. And 22 per cent of Welsh children aged between five and fifteen show severe or extensive decay – 10 per cent more than English children in that same age bracket.


Fewer than a quarter of 15 year olds in Wales can be described as having good oral health, and 63% have obvious dental decay, compared with 44% in England.


How much longer should we continue to allow Welsh teenagers to be at a significant disadvantage, given they are currently 60 per cent more likely to experience dental decay than their English peers.

Aside for dental pain (which is wholly preventable), we also know that bad oral health can adversely impact children both psychological and socially.


Studies have shown that primary school aged children with poor oral health are more likely to have problems at school, fail to complete all required homework, and miss more school than children with good oral health. Studies also show that dental health problems affect Welsh 12-15 year olds psychologically and socially.


Ensuring that children start with healthy eating and hygiene habits early on, can have a huge pay off for the future of not only their oral health, but that of future generations.


Dental disease continues to show its adverse impact, from pneumonia to heart disease. It is time that oral health became recognised as an important investment in preventative health care.


We think it’s time the Welsh Government stepped up and took this opportunity to make some real improvements in the oral health of children, teenagers and young adults in Wales. Using the sugar levy money to invest in prevention measures, when taken as a whole, will mean fewer children with unnecessary dental pain; more children that do better at school, and in life, generally; and that ultimately young people in Wales will enjoy greatly improved oral health and wellbeing.


Dr David Johnson

Chair, BDA Wales Committee for Community Dentists


Sugar and children’s oral health

We have been leading on calls for radical action to lower the nation’s sugar intake, with measures ranging from lowering the recommended daily allowance, through to action on marketing, labelling and sales taxes. Have a look at our top tips for your patients.