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Would graphic warning labels on sugary foods make you think more about your teeth and health?

The debate about using graphic warning labels on products to warn consumers about the impact of them on their health has gone on for many years.

But would it make a difference to you when considering buying food and drink products with high sugar levels?

In recent times, tobacco and cigarette manufacturers have been forced to use graphic images of the impact of smoking, including decaying teeth and mouth cancer, on their packaging for the UK market. It is thought that these images combined with plainer packaging, have led to a reduction in smoking.

At Illume, we are well placed to see the impact of both smoking and sugary foods and drinks on oral health. We wonder if a clearer and more obvious ‘traffic light’ labelling on foods and drinks with a high sugar content would encourage people to think more about their consumption.

The British Dental Association believes it would help cut tooth decay, obesity and type two diabetes.

Tim Rumney, Clinical Director and practice owner at Illume says “The challenge lies in the fact that many clients do not realise how much sugar is in certain foods and drinks. It’s not just sweets, cakes and sugary drinks that have high levels of sugar. They can also be found in some yogurts, fruit juice drinks, savoury tinned foods, ready meals and many other foods that we consider ‘healthy’.

“We believe there should be a more prominent way of highlighting sugar levels. The current colour coded method is not that effective. And so maybe, with clearer labelling and perhaps a more stark health warning, consumers would think more carefully about what they are eating. That way they can make significant changes to their diet which will impact on their teeth and overall health.”

The BDA states: “One idea is that we make sugar the 'new tobacco' and that producers have to be clear not just about the amounts contained (although we think this could be more prominently flagged on the labelling) but also about the health impacts of eating their products.

“The recent Harvard Business School study showed – perhaps unsurprisingly - that clearer warnings increased negative feelings towards sugary drinks and prompted increased consideration of health risks over taste.

“In the UK, it seems the scourge of sugar is never far from the headlines either, although the impact on teeth is often left out of the health debate, something we try to combat, but there is still a mountain to climb.”

At Illume, we issue the same mantra as usual. We recommend following a good home oral hygiene routine including brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, which is age appropriate for children, cleaning every surface of every tooth every day, using both a toothbrush and interdental brushes or floss to reduce the levels of plaque containing bacteria in the mouth which can lead to tartar build-up and cavities. We also recommend visiting us at intervals deemed appropriate by our dentists and hygienists for regular healthy mouth reviews and hygiene support visits.