In response to the government passing regulations on when junk food advertisements are allowed to play on television , the Oral Health Foundation welcomes these new restrictions and acknowledges that it is a step in the right direction, but worries that there is still a lot more work to do.
Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation says: “Nutrition is a key part of taking care of not just our general health but also our oral health. The amount of sugar we consume has a devastating impact on the nation’s oral health. Cutting down on sugar consumption is the number one way to stop tooth decay, and junk food is often filled with sugar in order to make the taste more appealing.
“Tooth decay remains the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children. The NHS carries out almost 900,000 tooth extractions on children under 18 every year, and nine-in-ten of these are down to tooth decay. Tooth extractions takes a great physical and emotional toll on children and is often a source of trauma.
“All measures we can take to prevent a child having to go through this [tooth extraction] are things we welcome wholeheartedly.”
Dr Ben Atkins, President of the Oral Health Foundation, also welcomes these new regulations, sharing his personal accounts of having to perform tooth extractions on young children.
Dr Atkins observes: “When you’re holding a parent’s hand because you’ve just had to take all of their child’s teeth out under general anaesthetic, and the child’s looking you in the eye saying ‘why have you done this to me’ you will welcome any new rules brought in to help protect children and stop situations like this occurring.
“Performing tooth extractions on a child is risky, especially under general anaesthetic which comes with a lot of risks itself. That child might not have woken up from anaesthetic. I could have put their life in danger over something which could have easily been managed with proper diet and proper oral healthcare.”
Despite being a move in the right direction, both Dr Carter and Dr Atkins believe the new regulations do not going far enough to protect children.
Dr Carter continues: “The proposed ban on junk food television advertising is a great first step, however will still be allowed through audio media, such as podcasts and radio, and there will be no new restrictions for the out-of-home sector, which includes billboards, poster sites, on buses, and in locations such as railway stations and airports.
“With many young children now also consuming more and more media online through things like Amazon Prime and YouTube, they may still be able to see junk food advertising through these channels. Extending these restrictions to cover all media types, especially streaming platforms, is the next natural progression.”
Dr Atkins adds: “Ultimately, the buying decision is still down to caregivers. They largely control what their children consume and while this advertising ban is welcomed, we all need to change our attitudes, and reduce our consumption of sugary foods, to effect change.”
The Oral Health Foundation is the leading national charity working to improve oral health. For more information, visit www.dentalhealth.org
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