Dental experts urge schools to go sugar-free to stem alarming rates of decay

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Dental experts are calling for schools to go sugar-free in a bid to tackle rising rates of childhood decay.

The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons is appealing to the government in England to encourage schools across the country to adopt healthy eating policies and reduce sugar consumption. Dental decay is the most common preventable illness among children, with 25% of 5-year-olds in England showing signs of decay. 

Before resigning, Prime Minister Theresa May revealed plans to combat high rates of childhood dental disease, and the government has released a green paper focused on reducing the number of preventable cases. However, the faculty insists that while there has been progress, there is still a very long way to go. 

Hundreds of procedures to extract decayed teeth are undertaken in English hospitals every day, and only 59% of children in England attended a dental check last year, despite experts recommending 6-montly appointments for youngsters. 

To tackle the problem and boost standards of children’s dental health, the faculty has published a list of 12 recommendations. Examples include providing supervised teeth cleaning schemes, encouraging schools to go sugar-free, cracking down on the promotion and marketing of sugary products, reducing the sugar content of baby food and expanding the sugar tax to cover other drinks, including sugary milkshakes and other dairy products. The organisation also suggested that the NHS should run a campaign to educate and inform parents about the availability of free NHS dental services for children in a bid to encourage more parents to take their children to the dentist on a regular basis.

Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery, Prof Michael Escudier, described the current situation as “incredibly worrying” especially as decay can be prevented by implementing relatively simple, inexpensive measures.

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