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Dental surgeons call for sugar-free schools to tackle scourge of child tooth decay

Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast, says dental surgeons are calling on schools to think about their sugar policy and to be encouraged to become sugar free

Children should be taught about healthy eating at school, not given sugary 'treats' as rewards and for dessert
Lucy Stock

IS THIS the beginning of the end for Friday sweets to reward the top table in the classroom? Should we even be connecting doing well in school with sweet food rewards? Does any child in 2019 need a sugary desert after their school dinners?

We have sleepwalked into accepting birthday cake celebrations, vending machines and tuck shops in our schools as a normality. However, obesity and tooth-decay levels in children are pushing the pointer in a 'this is a bad idea' direction. Now dental surgeons are calling on schools to think again and to be encouraged to become sugar free.

The call comes as analysis by the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) shows more than 100,000 hospital admissions for children under the age of 10 in England over a three-year period are due to tooth decay.

Children's teeth in Northern Ireland are even worse. We remain at the bottom of the league table: 40 per cent of our five-year-olds show signs of decay compared with 25 per cent in England. It's estimated that children's hospital tooth extractions for a year costs the NHS just over £9.3 million in Northern Ireland.

As well as being distressing in itself, dental decay can have wider consequences for children, such as making it difficult for them to sleep, eat and socialise and putting them at risk of acute sepsis. Dental pain is detrimental to school performance, affecting concentration in lessons and potentially requiring them to take time off for dental appointments.

Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “The FDS believes that limiting the availability of surgery foods and drinks in schools is essential to reducing the amount of sugar our children consume.

"While the government has committed to reviewing school food standards, we would like to see them go beyond this to encourage all schools to become sugar free. The scourge of child dental decay cannot be allowed to continue. Everyone needs to play their part in ensuring our children have healthy, happy teeth.”

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