Awareness Campaign to Combat Sugar Consumption and Tooth Decay

Dentistry Today


As children in the United Kingdom suffer from epidemic levels of tooth decay, Public Health England (PHE) reports that half of their daily sugar intake—about seven sugar cubes a day—comes from unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks. Now, the government agency is launching an awareness campaign for parents and dentists alike to improve oral health by improving eating and oral hygiene habits.

The Change4Life campaign encourages parents to ensure their children only eat two healthy snacks of 100 calories each a day. On average, kids in the United Kingdom eat at least three unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks a day, with around a third consuming four or more. That’s almost 400 cookies, nearly 70 servings of ice cream, and more than 150 juice boxes and cans of soda each year. As a result, children consume three times more sugar than is recommended.

“The true extent of children’s snacking habits is greater than the odd biscuit or chocolate bar. Children are having unhealthy snacks throughout the day, and parents have told us they’re concerned,” said Alison Tedstone, PhD, chief nutritionist at PHE. “To make it easier for busy families, we’ve developed a simple rule of thumb to help them move towards healthier snacking. Look for 100-calorie snacks, two a day max. 

Selected supermarkets will support the campaign by promoting healthier snacking options. Also, parents can receive coupons from Change4Life to try these alternatives, including malt loaf, lower-sugar fromage frais, and drinks with no added sugar. Plus, the improved Food Scanner app will show parents how many calories and how much sugar, salt, and saturated fat is in the food they purchase. 

As part of the campaign, dentists can download PHE’s free Top Tips for Teeth dental toolkit, helping them educate families about the importance of proper oral hygiene. Digital resources include TV screensavers, a short video for dental practice waiting rooms, and social media assets. Available physical materials include posters, leaflets, badges, and a briefing guide that can be used in dental settings. The toolkit also includes three key tips for parents: 

  • Be sugar smart: Make healthier food and drink choices by swapping out sugar.
  • Visit the dentist regularly: Parents might not realize that trips to a National Health Service dentist are free for pregnant women and for anyone under the age of 18 (or 19 if in full-time education).
  • Brush your teeth twice a day: Adults and children alike should use effective brushing techniques and the right amounts of fluoride toothpaste.

“It’s the first time in some years that dentistry has featured in such a high-profile national public health campaign, and this is real progress,” said Claire Stevens, BDS, president of the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry. “With our national Dental Check by One campaign in 2017 and the launch of Starting Well programs already underway, I firmly believe that we are going to start to see a difference in children’s oral health in the year ahead.”

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