Remaining vigilant in times of challenge

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  Posted by: Dental Design      15th January 2023

It was unsurprising that the previous Prime Minister’s interest in scrapping the sugar tax (in addition to certain anti-obesity measures such as ‘buy one get one free’ offers) generated outrage.

As a dental professional, you often witness first-hand the impact that a poor diet can have on a person’s oral health. With regards to the reversing of these measures and policies, which have been put in place to reduce the burden of health issues on the nation and the National Health Service (NHS), what will the implications for the dental sector look like?

A closer look

The Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL), charges manufacturers, packagers and importers: around £0.24 per litre for drinks with over 8g of sugar per 100ml; £0.18 per litre for drinks with 5 to 8g of sugar per 100ml; nothing for milk-based drinks and fruit juices, which are exempt from the SDIL.[i] A study found that the SDIL was associated with a ‘considerable’ impact on the amount of sugar in soft drinks.i Researchers noted that, one year following the implementation of the SDIL, the volume of soft drinks purchased did not change; however, the sugar purchased in these drinks did reduce by 30g per household per week. This is the equivalent of around 3 fewer teaspoons of sugar.[ii]

The SDIL, introduced in 2018, was implemented as a bid to tackle obesity by attempting to reduce the nation’s consumption of sugary drinks. For medical and dental professionals, this announcement was undeniably welcome, representing a positive step forward for the overall health, and oral health, of the population.

Links have been made to the food environment (namely, the availability, accessibility, price and marketing of food/beverages) and oral health outcomes.[iii] Some research noted that although the number of studies on this topic is limited, current evidence suggests that through policies that restrict access to, or increase the price of unhealthy foods/drinks, better oral health could be achieved.iii As you well know, the links between foods high in fat and sugar and poor health are well-established:[iv] [v] the relationship between excessive fat and sugar consumption and oral health are likewise distinguished.[vi] So, the notion of reversing the SDIL has, predictably, been met with criticism.

Now more than ever, all medical and dental professionals must remain vigilant when educating patients on the importance of a healthy diet and a thorough oral hygiene routine.

What’s the risk?

All dental professionals are aware of the state of oral health in the UK. Over the past few years, research has highlighted worrying statistics: in 3-year-olds across England in 2020, the prevalence of dental decay was 10.7%;[vii] in 2019, 23.4% of 5-year-olds had also experienced dental decay.[viii] The current issues faced by NHS dentistry have resulted in a wider chasm between patients and dental care, leaving many without professional intervention. Last year, 53% of the public went without a routine check-up, with 58% noting that, in the last decade, access to NHS dentistry has gotten worse. Oral health inequalities have become shockingly marked in recent years, too, with childhood decay being 3.8x higher in deprived communities when compared to those in more affluent regions[ix]

While oral health has certainly improved, it’s clear that it’s a long way off from where it needs to be. Impediments such as the pandemic have devastated the dental sector, causing intense challenges that continue to be tackled by dental professionals across the country. The reversal of the SDIL could prove catastrophic, too.

Perseverance when it’s needed most

Patients are very much in control when it comes to what they consume, but this simply means that dental professionals must persevere with relevant and accessible oral health education. Thankfully, social media has made this endeavour far more straightforward – professional information and guidance can be shared online, via the dental practice’s website, social media platform or a blog, to reach a wider and more varied audience. Continual team training will likewise help when giving patients relevant and topical guidance on oral health care.

Many patients will appreciate simple, easy-to-understand advice that they can implement straightaway, such as how they to optimise their oral hygiene routines at home. The recommendation of dental products is another way to ensure that patients are looking after their teeth and gums adequately. For example, you could consider recommending the Arm & Hammer 100% Natural Gum Protection toothpaste, which includes 1450ppnm of fluoride for caries prevention. This formula also contains baking soda, which aids in the neutralisation of acids, the remineralisation of enamel and the balancing of the oral pH. It disperses quickly and reaches deep between the teeth and below the gumline, for a thorough and reliable clean, every day.

Going forward 

Policy changes and dire societal tribulations have thrown the nation into turmoil, and oral health is continuing to suffer as a result. While we cannot determine a patient’s diet and oral hygiene habits, we can equipped them with the information they need to make more positive choices for their health.


For more information about the carefully formulated Arm & Hammer toothpaste range, please visit or email: 

Arm & Hammer oral healthcare products can now be purchased from Boots, Amazon, Superdrug, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrison’s, Waitrose & Partners and Ocado.


Author: Susan joined Waterpik as a Professional Educator over 4 years ago. She is passionate about the work she carries out for the company delivering Lunch & Learn educational sessions to dental professionals.

Susan graduated from Eastman Dental Institute School of Dental Hygiene in 1988 and now has over 30 years clinical experience working in Harley Street, specialist and orthodontic practices. Susan has a particular interest in treating periodontal patients and regularly encourages her patients to use the Waterpik water flosser to help maintain their periodontal health.



[i] Scarborough, P., Adhikari, V., Harrington, R.A., Elhussein, A., Briggs, A., Rayner, M., Adams, J., Cummins, S., Penney, T. and White, M. (2020). Impact of the announcement and implementation of the UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy on sugar content, price, product size and number of available soft drinks in the UK, 2015-19: A controlled interrupted time series analysis. PLOS Medicine, [online] 17(2), p.e1003025. Available at: [Accessed 4 Oct. 2022].

[ii] Pell, D., Mytton, O., Penney, T.L., Briggs, A., Cummins, S., Penn-Jones, C., Rayner, M., Rutter, H., Scarborough, P., Sharp, S.J., Smith, R.D., White, M. and Adams, J. (2021). Changes in soft drinks purchased by British households associated with the UK soft drinks industry levy: controlled interrupted time series analysis. BMJ, [online] 372(372). Available at: [Accessed 4 Oct. 2022].

[iii] Mackenbach, J.D., Ibouanga, E.L., van der Veen, M.H., Ziesemer, K.A. and Pinho, M.G.M. (2022). Relation between the food environment and oral health—systematic review. European Journal of Public Health. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Oct. 2022].

[iv] NHS (2019). Obesity. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Oct. 2022].

[v] J Johnson, R., G Sanchez-Lozada, L., Andrews, P. and A Lanaspa, M. (2017). Perspective: A Historical and Scientific Perspective of Sugar and Its Relation with Obesity and Diabetes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Oct. 2022].

[vi] Gasmi Benahmed, A., Gasmi, A., Dadar, M., Arshad, M. and Bjørklund, G. (2021). The role of sugar-rich diet and salivary proteins in dental plaque formation and oral health. Journal of Oral Biosciences. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Oct. 2022].

[vii] National Dental Epidemiology Programme for England: oral health survey of 3-year-old children 2020 A report on the prevalence and severity of dental decay Version 2. (2021). [online] GOV.UK. Available at: [Accessed 4 Oct. 2022].

[viii] National Dental Epidemiology Programme for England: oral health survey of 5-year-olds 2019 A report on the variations in prevalence and severity of dental decay. (2020). [online] GOV.UK. Available at: [Accessed 4 Oct. 2022].

[ix] mydentist, (2022). The Great British Oral Health Report. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Oct. 2022].

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