The impact of taxing sugar products on the need for dental care is negligible

Researchers at the University of Oulu have studied the impact of sugar product taxation on the needs and costs of public dental care. This topic has not been studied before in Finland.

The study used longitudinal data from Finnish registers from 2011-2020.

Between 2011 and 2016, Finland had a sweets tax on sweets, ice-creams and soft drinks. Towards the end of the study period, between 2017 and 2020, sweets and ice cream were no longer subject to excise duty.

The study found that the higher the excise revenue from sugary products, the higher the total operating costs of public dental services and basic oral care needs. In practice, this means that when more tax revenue was generated from sugar products, the costs of public dental services and basic oral health care needs were also higher.

However, average sugar consumption was not found to affect the total cost of public dental services and basic oral health care needs.

The study found that sugar consumption remained relatively stable in Finland between 2011 and 2020, although sweets and ice cream were no longer subject to excise duty towards the end of the period.

The total cost of public dental services increased by an average of 1.9% per year over the period.

Although the taxation of sugar products does not seem to have an impact on sugar consumption, it does significantly increase total national tax revenues. This revenue could be further invested in oral and general health promotion, researchers suggest.

"Our research shows that people do not give up sugary products despite taxation. So we need to explore other alternatives to reduce sugar consumption. Investment in health promotion and well-being must be a priority, as it will generate large savings for society in the long run," says Saujanya Karki, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Research Unit of Population Health.

The study was published in April in Acta Odontologica Scandinavica: Jokirinta J, Päkkilä J, Mourelatos E, Sipola S, Laitala ML, Karki S. Trend in basic oral treatment needs in relation to taxation of sweets, ice cream, and sugar-sweetened beverages in Finland: a registry-based study. Acta Odontol Scand. 2024 Apr 16;83:160-165. doi:

Last updated: 26.4.2024