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Go Fizz Free this February

Blog Author Mick Armstrong

Blog Date 30/01/2019

Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP, Helen Hayes MP, Tom Watson MP with Mick armstrong and other panellists

Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP, Helen Hayes MP, Tom Watson MP with Mick armstrong and other panellists at Fizz Free February launch in Parliament

 

The idea to make February 'Fizz Free' began in the London Borough of Southwark in 2018. The concept was simple: encourage families to take a few weeks without reaching for a can of pop. 

Prevention matters to dentists, because we see the damage these drinks do every day. The sugar they are packed full of is a big contributor to the problem of obesity. But it is the single main cause of tooth decay. 

 

Fizzy drinks are the largest single source of sugar for children aged 11-18. And the decay they fuel is what impacts on school readiness, confidence, and future employability.

 

We campaigned for a sugar tax, not because we want to raise money for the treasury. It's because we want to discourage consumption of these drinks. 

 

So now we're proud to help Fizz Free February go national. And you can too.


Remember: diet drinks are not a tooth friendly option

So, if you're going to encourage your patients to take part, remember, going fizz free means not just reaching for sugar-free versions.

 

Coca Cola spent last Christmas telling parents they were offering a healthy alternative in the shape of Coke Zero. The truth is these drinks are more acidic than lemon juice or vinegar, and are helping to fuel an epidemic of dental erosion.

 

Both the original and sugar-free versions owe their tart flavour to phosphoric acid. This is a substance that effectively removes rust from old metal and we know the impact it can have on our teeth. 

 

And then there's the evidence that 'diet' fizzy drinks encourage a preference for sweet tastes, which can lead to cravings for other sweet products.


Don't let the critics get you down

By many measures oral health has improved since the 70s. And now some are saying dentists shouldn't make a fuss about sugar. But the evidence shows that health inequalities are deep and aren't shifting.

We launched Fizz Free Feb in Westminster, where a child is 5 times more likely to arrive at primary school with decay as one born in Surrey.

 

Sweet drinks contribute to widening this oral health gap, as children from the poorest backgrounds are almost twice more likely to drink them regularly than then more well-off peers. 

 

Remember what we're up against

On sugar I know that the odds often seem stacked against us.

 

Local authority public health budgets like Southwark's have been savagely cut. And this has disproportionately hit preventive oral health services. 

 

Meanwhile the Coca Cola Company spends about £4bn a year on marketing.

 

Yes we need stronger action on sugar, particularly around advertising, marketing and price promotions. We need a universal and properly funded oral health prevention programmes in both England and Northern Ireland. And of course we need to ensure NHS dentistry is adequately commissioned and funded.

 

But in the face of all these challenges raising awareness around the impact sugar has on our teeth and overall health matters. Over 44,000 hospital operations were carried out in 2017-18 to remove children's teeth. While awareness raising alone won't change these numbers overnight, it has to be part of the solution.

 

We've shown progress is possible in the war on sugar. We can win, particularly when politicians, health professionals and parents work together. 

 

Mick Armstrong

Chair, BDA

 

Sugar and children's oral health

Find out more about our campaigning work on sugar and children's oral health.

 

Through our policy and campaigning work, we ensure that the concerns of all sections of the profession are raised and that dentists' voices are heard at a national level: join us.