Earlier this year, the Chancellor announced the introduction of a sugar tax on some sugary drinks. This move was welcomed by many healthcare professionals and campaigners, but what do dentists think of the impending change? Dentists Eddie Crouch, Judith Husband, Petros Mylonas and Paul Worskett met up to share their views on the new tax a few days after the announcement.
Kick-starting the discussion was Petros Mylonas who said, ‘Putting the money into schools to get kids healthier is great but it doesn’t address decaying children’s teeth. We should be investing in local intervention, perhaps getting dentists to visit schools and educate children on oral health and dietary advice.’ What’s more, Petros is of the view that the tax will do little to deter people from continuing to consume sugary food and drink, believing, ‘If you are going to drink sugary pop or eat sugary foods, adding tax doesn’t stop you. You end up, like in the States, with the sugar content being replaced by high-fructose corn syrup. I’m against the tax because it’s not going to do anything other than fill the coffers of the Chancellor.’
“If you are going to drink sugary pop or eat sugary foods, adding tax doesn’t stop you. You end up, like in the States, with the sugar content being replaced by high-fructose corn syrup.”
Judith Husband has a far more positive outlook on the new tax, she stated, ‘I am passionately in favour of this. It is too little too late, though. I think we really need to question what we are trying to achieve. I don’t think it’s about how much money we’re getting or even where it’s spent. I think it’s a way of raising the profile of the issue, letting people see what 25 spoonfuls of sugar actually look like. It will hopefully become socially unacceptable to have a 3-year-old walking around holding one of these drinks, just as it is to smoke indoors or in your car. It’s also a massive smoke screen for the Chancellor but I’ll take my wins where I can get them.’
In contrast, Eddie Crouch’s view is rather more cynical, ‘It’s not going to be a win if you see that 3-year-old child swapping a can of carbonated, sugary liquid for an untaxed fruit smoothie that has as much sugar in it. Chocolate flavoured milk isn’t going to be taxed, either. The whole policy is rubbish.’ He also has strong views on how the revenue created should be used, ‘This money should go into prevention for dentistry. We should get a bit of it. We’re getting nothing.’
“It’s not going to be a win if you see that 3-year-old child swapping a can of carbonated, sugary liquid for an untaxed fruit smoothie that has as much sugar in it.”
Paul Worskett believes that the tax doesn’t go far enough, ‘There should be legislation to limit the amount of sugar in foods.’ He also highlighted that, ‘It is disappointing that all the hype around the tax is focused on diabetes and obesity. General anaesthesia on kids is largely down to tooth decay and it’s ignored by the media.’
Judith concluded the discussion by praising the work of Jamie Oliver in raising awareness and interest in dentistry through his programme ‘Jamie’s Sugar Rush,’ We know caries is a socio-economic issue – more so than a health issue – so we have to get real. Certainly the work with Jamie Oliver in the dental sector generated a great level of interest because everyone can relate to dentistry*. Everyone has had a toothache or some other dentally-related niggle at some point. Ultimately it’s about encouraging people to achieve a healthy balance with their diet.’
You can watch a clip from Jamie’s Sugar Rush where sugary drink-loving six year old Mario has decayed teeth extracted in hospital here.
Meet the dentists
Eddie Crouch works in two practices in Birmingham. He is Vice Chair of the Birmingham Local Dental Committee, Vice Chair of the British Dental Association Principal Executive Committee and immediate past Chair of Central Counties Branch of the British Dental Association.
Judith Husband is a clinical dentist working in secure setting dental care, such as Bullingdon Community Prison, sits on the BDA Principal Executive Committee and is a member of the Wesleyan Advisory Board. She is also Chair of The Oxfordshire Local Dental Committee She has a wide experience of healthcare reforms, liaising with significant stakeholders and keeping up to date with changes throughout healthcare, in particular NHS dentistry.
Petros Mylonas is a practising dentist, an Honorary Clinical Lecturer in Restorative Dentistry at Birmingham Dental School, and current Secretary of the BDA Hospitals Group West Midlands. He is also undertaking Academic Dental Core Training in oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. In addition, Petros has experience in both clinical research and presenting research at local, national, and international level. He has received numerous postgraduate awards, including the Young Scientist/Clinician Award 2012 from the European Association of Oral Medicine, and most recently the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy Poster Presentation Award 2014. Petros is a keen writer and has had a number of papers published in the dental press.
Paul Worskett qualified in 1983 and has worked in London hospitals specialising in oral & maxillofacial surgery. After gaining experience in general practice, in 1988 he became the principal of Amblecote Dental Care in the West Midlands, and has expanded and developed the practice ever since. Paul has extensive experience of dentistry and has a special interest in cosmetic and implant dental care. He has completed numerous courses on advanced dentistry over the years and was awarded a Master’s degree with distinction from the University of Birmingham in Advanced General Dental Practice. Under Paul’s leadership, Amblecote Dental Care is a prototype practice as part of