Teeth may benefit from VAT hike

The government’s tough monetary policy may be having an unexpected benefit to the nation’s oral and general health.

The recent rise in VAT to 20% is forcing some confectionery manufacturers and retailers to look again at the price and size of their chocolate bars.

The result may be a welcome and unexpected reduction in sugar intake – helping to improve dental health and lower rates of obesity.

Recent reports suggest that some of the largest confectionery manufacturers in the UK are shrinking the size of their products to help them manage their pricing policies and profitability.

Angus Kennedy, editor of confectionary magazine, Kennedy’s Confection, said: ‘Companies, including Nestle and Cadbury, have reduced the size of some of their most popular brands to keep profits up. Poundland UK has agreed to cut the size of the Toblerones by one triangle so as to keep the price at £1.

‘Cadbury Dairy Milk will also lose out with a couple of chunks taken off bars, closely followed by the reduction of weight of a bag of Maltesers from 140g to 120g.’

After many years of increasing bar sizes, the result of these changes may have unexpected benefits to the amount of sugar being consumed.

With sugar-filled sweets and confectionery being among the most common causes of tooth decay in the country, it is no wonder that confectionery manufacturers and dentists have often found themselves at opposite sides of an increasingly fierce debate. These latest development will undoubtedly ease some of those tensions.

Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said that cutting the size of confectionery bars was a step in the right direction and is an encouraging move for better health in the UK.

Dr Carter said: ‘Ultimately, reducing the total amount of sugar in a packet of sweets or a bar of chocolate will have a positive effect on people’s diet in relation to both their oral and overall health.

‘Although it seems clear that manufacturers are making these steps to retain their profit margins, the move will have a knock on effect and could mean lower rates of decay as well as a reduction in obesity.

‘A sweet treat for the taste buds creates an acid attack for the teeth. In turn, too frequent consumption of any confectionery could lead to a mouth of decayed teeth, and a difficult job for the dentist.

‘The main point to remember is that it is not the amount of sugar we eat or drink, but how often we eat it. Sugary foods can also contribute to a range of health problems including heart disease and being overweight, with the rise in obesity largely down to factors such as the overall increase in snacking and the growth of fizzy drinks.

‘The main cause of tooth decay is the sugar that is in the foods and drinks you have. Every time you eat or drink anything sugary, your teeth are under acid attack for up to one hour.  This is because the sugar will react with the bacteria in plaque (the sticky coating on your teeth) and produce the harmful acids.  So it is important to keep sugary foods only to mealtimes, limiting the amount of time your mouth is at risk.’

The British Dental Health Foundation would like to encourage everybody to think about what foods contain sugar before consumption. After all, it is not only sweets we should be looking out for – hidden sugars in our diet, such as in cakes, biscuits, baked beans, tomato ketchup and so on, heavily contribute to dental problems as well as increasing our calorie intake.

The National Dental Helpline (0845 063 1188) receives thousands of calls every year from parents looking for advice on diet and how to care for the mouth and teeth of themselves and their children, alongside enquiries to the www.dentalhealth.org website.

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