Taxing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages to Reduce Dental Cavities and Treatment Costs?

Posted on September 26, 2016

Alexandria, Va. – The International and American Associations for Dental Research (IADR/AADR) have published a Discovery! manuscript titled "Effects of Taxing Sugar-sweetened Beverages on Caries and Treatment Costs" by lead author Falk Schwendicke, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany. This manuscript, published today in the OnlineFirst portion of the IADR/AADR Journal of Dental Research (JDR), provides the first economic evaluation of the effect of taxation on caries experience and treatment costs. Accompanying this article is an editorial titled "Taxes on SSBs: A Strategy to Reduce Epidemics of Dental Caries?", written by JDR Editor-in-Chief William Giannobile, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA; and JDR Associate Editor Jessica Lee, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, diet is the leading cause of health loss. The dietary impact of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), in addition to tobacco, alcohol and salt, serves as a major contributor to death. SSBs have demonstrated putative effects on diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancer types. Furthermore, the increasing rise in dental caries experience due to SSBs has become a global public health problem that has attracted the attention of clinicians, scientists and policymakers.

In this study, Schwendicke and colleagues modeled the implementation of a 20% of SSBs' sales tax in a German population and concluded that taxation reduced caries increment and treatment costs especially in younger individuals and those with low income. If such a tax rate of 20% was implemented, this could help alleviate the rates in obesity, dental caries increments and perhaps other comorbidities, such as diabetes. There have been successes in the implementation of SSB taxes in an effort to reduce dietary intake of added sugars to combat obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Obesity, like dental caries is broadly perceived as a preventable condition that can be managed through behavioral changes, in most cases.

As far as recent triumphs in affecting change, Mexico and the UK have successfully passed legislation on SSBs using prototypes of taxation adapted from alcohol and tobacco. Taxing SSBs can be an important tool in the prevention of dental and metabolic diseases to promote oral and systemic well-being.

"This landmark contribution provides convincing evidence that changes in tax policy can result in improved oral health, at both the individual and population levels, and also yield significant financial benefits to governments," said oral health policy expert and AADR President-elect Raul Garcia. "These findings have immediate implications for formulation of health policy at the national level in all countries."

Please visit to read the Discovery! manuscript titled "Effects of Taxing Sugar-sweetened Beverages on Caries and Treatment Costs" and the companion editorial.


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