All schools should become sugar-free to tackle high levels of child tooth decay, leading dental surgeons said.
The call comes after analysis by the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) showed there were more than 100,000 hospital admissions for children under the age of 10 in England due to tooth decay over a three-year period.
In an updated position statement published on Thursday, the FDS said it believes “all schools should be encouraged to become sugar-free” and said supervised tooth brushing schemes should be put in place before 2022 so that more children at risk of decay can benefit.
Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the FDS at the RCS, 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.
“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 in England to become sugar- free.
“We would also support the publication of nutritional guidelines for packed lunches.
“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.”
Prof Escudier added: “Since we launched our campaign in 2015, we have seen the state of children’s teeth improve in parts of England but worryingly, inequalities persist in different areas of the country.
“We know that children living in the most deprived parts of England are much more likely to experience tooth decay than those in the most affluent.
“There’s a real opportunity to build on the progress that has already been made and stamp out these inequalities, so that all children in England can benefit from good oral health.”
The dental surgeons added that it is vital to children’s oral health that the Government stands by previous commitments on sugar reduction.
Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Judith Jolly said: “Much more needs to be done to improve the health of children across the UK.
“It is the responsibility of grown-ups, not children, to give everyone the healthiest start in life.
“With a bit more encouragement and support, it would not be difficult for schools to change out fizzy drinks for water, or bananas instead of biscuits.”
British Dental Association chair Mick Armstrong said: “It will take more than warm words to stop decades of progress on children’s oral health from going into reverse.
“It’s a scandal that tooth decay remains the number one reason for child hospital admissions.
“We will not see real progress until ministers start going further and faster on prevention.”