We co-signed a letter to Joe FitzPatrick in response to improvements in child dental health

07 November 2019

We co-signed a joint letter to Joe FitzPatrick, the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, alongside Action on Sugar, Nourish Scotland, British Dental Association Scotland and the Dental Faculty of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

The letter was written in response to the announcement there has been a significant long-term decrease in the number of childhood fillings and tooth extractions in Scotland since 2000-01. We welcomed this announcement within the letter, but highlighted that tooth decay, particularly in children, is still a public health concern in both Scotland and worldwide. Children’s tooth extraction rates in hospital continues to be of major concern.

The leading cause of tooth decay is a poor diet and more needs to be done to address the issue of excessive free sugar consumption especially among children and young people. Yet there is little mention of the importance of diet in relation to dental health within the oral health plan. We believe that more emphasis is required on wider preventative measures, including food and drink based recommendations, specifically the importance of reducing consumption of free sugars - including fruit juice, juice based drinks and sugar sweetened drinks, but not to confuse the message with whole fruit.

We also highlighted our concern that the forthcoming revised school nutritional standards could see diet soft drinks making a comeback to secondary school lunch halls. This would be significant retrograde step and we urged Joe FitzPatrick to ensure such drinks are not permitted for the following reasons:

1. Allowing these products in schools normalises them, and although they are low in calories and sugar, they are discretionary and processed food and should not be promoted by schools.
2. Sugar-free drinks introduce, adapt and normalise users to a very sweet taste, with implications for other subsequent food and drink choices.
3. Although these drinks are low in sugar, they are acidic and therefore may negatively affect dental health.

Read the full letter to Joe FitzPatrick, here.