Oral Health Foundation: Cost of living crisis contributing to deterioration of oral health

The rise in cost of living could lead to a deterioration in the nation’s oral health, according to the Oral Health Foundation. 

New research by the charity shows more than nine-in-ten (94%) UK adults have been affected in some way by the rising cost of living, with nearly two-in-three (62%) experiencing a significant increase in their outgoings. 

Data reveals around four-in-five (82%) are being forced into making sacrifices into their spending habits, with one-in-four (25%) cutting back on oral health products like toothpaste, mouthwash and interdental brushes. 

The increase in living costs is also labelled as a factor for one-in-three (31%) who have not visited a dentist in over two years while one-in-four (25%) parents have had to spend less money on their oral health to look after their children’s teeth. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, around one-in-ten (12%) say their oral health has declined. 

The Oral Health Foundation is concerned that rising costs could lead to a widening of oral health inequalities and calls for more support to help those in the greatest need. 

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “Rising costs have hit the poorest families hardest and now we are seeing this impact on the health of the mouth. It is an unjust and unfair travesty that some people are having to make choices between putting food on the table and heating their home, and buying toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo. 

“Buying habits are linked to behavioural habits and we’re concerned that many people feel like they have little choice but to give up twice daily brushing just to make their toothpaste last a little longer.  Absolutely nobody should be put in the position where they have to make sacrifices to the health of their mouth.  

“Government is rightly under increasing pressure to end the cost of living crisis.  They must now commit to a levelling up agenda that prevents a widening of oral health inequalities so that everybody can achieve the standards of oral health that they deserve.” 

More data from the Oral Health Foundation suggests oral health products are some of the last essentials people are willing to go without.  Luxuries like holidays (53%) and tv subscriptions (43%) come top of the list of items the UK public has given up over the last year.

Oral health was also deemed a greater priority than hair products, skin care products, and make-up.  

On average, UK households spend £4.70 per week on oral health products, however, the majority (38%) spend as little as £2 a week.  Worryingly, twice as many households (22%) are now cutting back on how much they spend on their oral health compared to those who are choosing to spend more (11%). 

The rise in the cost of living has led over half (55%) of UK adults to feel like they have neglected their teeth over the last two years.  As a result, more than one-in-five (28%) now regularly feel self-conscious or anxious because of their smile.

“Many people view good oral health as an important factor in their overall appearance, and in most cases, the health of the mouth can play a significant role in a person’s confidence to smile,” adds Dr Carter.

“This is most likely because a healthy smile often translates to an attractive smile, and this will make a person feel better about themselves.  A smile communicates a sign of friendship, trust and acceptability.  As these are things most people strive towards, it means that taking good care of the mouth is incredibly important.”

For a healthy mouth, the Oral Health Foundation advises brushing teeth last thing at night and at one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste.

The charity is also keen to highlight the importance of cutting down on sugary foods and drinks you have and keeping to regular dental visits.  Health experts also advise cleaning between your teeth with an interdental brush once a day while chewing sugar free gum can also be helpful to neutralise plaque acid build-up throughout the day.

Dr Carter says: “Look after the mouth is very easy and does not take a lot of time.  Government must do more to allow people the means and opportunity to care for their own mouths and support those in financial difficulties with the basic tools that are needed to do this.”

Charity head calls for urgent need to ‘level up’ the UK’s oral health

The UK’s oral health is a postcode lottery and is in dire need of levelling up, says Dr Nigel Carter

Speaking on Monday at the launch of this year’s National Smile Month, the Oral Health Foundation’s chief executive, Dr Nigel Carter called for the government to put an end to the vast inequalities in oral health that are causing tens of thousands of people to suffer in pain.

Dr Carter has urged the government to focus on addressing critical problems with access to NHS dentistry and the need to train more dentists.

Dr Carter said: “Oral health varies around the UK – it is a postcode lottery.  This isn’t going to go away overnight as the dentists just aren’t there.  It does seem that there isn’t a wish to address the problem and train more dentists.

“Whether that dentistry is being delivered on the NHS, or the private sector, it is not possible without an adequate workforce.

“You really can’t achieve good health and wellbeing without good oral health.  That’s why during National Smile Month, we are calling for a levelling up agenda so that everybody can achieve the standards of oral health that they really deserve.”

National Smile Month 2022 is all about tackling inequalities within oral health in the UK.

Under the theme of ‘Everyone deserves a healthy smile’, the charity’s campaign will be helping more people achieve a healthier life through better oral health.

The Oral Health Foundation will be providing information and support for thousands of children and families, the elderly and vulnerable, people with disabilities and those living in deprivation or isolation.

Mhari Coxon

Mhari Coxon, President of the Oral Health Foundation said: “This year is about shining a light on the millions of people that are affected by oral health problems such as tooth decay and gum disease.

“We want to support those who are vulnerable, elderly, disabled or those who, for whatever reason, can’t access education, the right dietary advice and because of social economic reasons don’t have access to oral care.

“Everyone deserves a healthy smile, and these diseases are completely preventable.”

Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases in the UK.  One-in-three (33%) adults have signs of tooth decay, as well as around one-in-four (24%) five-year-olds.

Those from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to suffer from tooth decay and be admitted to hospital because of it.  Last week, it was revealed that 14,615 children in England had rotten teeth removed in hospital between 2020-21. 

The Oral Health Foundation is campaigning to make healthier food and drink, that contains less sugar, more affordable for families on lower incomes.  It is tragic to see the government decision this week to delay the ban on cheap offers on unhealthy foods.  Far from helping in these times of inflation the move is likely to store up greater problems with both oral and general health and to cost both individuals and the country more in the future.

The charity also believes a nationwide water fluoridation programme will drastically cut rates of tooth decay, especially in children.  Currently, only 11% of the population benefit from fluoride being added to their water supply.  Research shows that in fluoridated areas, the number of hospital admissions (for tooth decay) falls by between 45% and 68%.

Tooth decay and other oral diseases can have a negative impact throughout life and can cause pain, infection and lead to difficulties with eating, sleeping, socialising and wellbeing.  Campaigners are extremely concerned that oral health has declined during the pandemic.

The charity has found over half (55%) of UK adults feel they have neglected their teeth during the various lockdowns.  Around one-in-seven (15%) admit to not brushing their teeth as much as before the pandemic.  One-in-five (20%) are eating unhealthier foods, and more than one-in-ten (11%) have been drinking more alcohol.

Professor Avijit Banerjee

Professor Avijit Banerjee from Kings College London, speaking on behalf of the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme, one of the National Smile Month sponsors said: “The pandemic has highlighted the key issues in both oral and dental health care that we see daily in the news.

“We have access issues, social and demographic inequalities and of course, these impact on the quality of dental health which has declined over the past two years.

“We need to move away from just treating diseases to preventing them.  We need to bring back the national health service, as opposed to a national illness service or a national treatment service.  We need to innovate in the way we change behaviour and engage with the public on prevention.

“Behaviour change is available if we are willing to think outside the box. I was privileged to lead a fantastic research team at Kings College London over the last four years looking at the health benefits of chewing gum. We found that chewing sugar-free gum reduces the level of plaque and decay.”  

Health leaders are also keen to raise awareness about how the health of your mouth has a direct link to the health of your body.

Studies have shown that poor oral health, specifically severe gum disease, can lead to increased risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes, dementia and poor pregnancy outcomes.

Professor Iain Chapple

Professor Iain Chapple from Birmingham University, speaking on behalf of Johnson&Johnson, the makers of LISTERINE® Ltd and sponsors of the Month said: “Both tooth decay and periodontitis (severe gum disease) are the most common human diseases responsible for more years lost to disability than any other human condition, and the links to systemic diseases are well established.

“There is a desperate need for public health campaigns to raise awareness of this. It’s really tough to get public health messages in oral care funded nationally.  We all need to start investing and getting those messages out there.

“Healthy gums don’t bleed.  Effective toothbrushing and interdental cleaning is essential for keeping gums healthy.  Mouthwashes containing fluoride (with more than 100ppm fluoride) that are clinically proven to reduce plaque/germs offer additional benefit.

Research shows that the single biggest reduction in gum disease occurs through the measures that patients can take at home.”

National Smile Month runs until 16 June and is supported by some of the most well-known household brands in the UK, including Invisalign, Oral-B, GSK, Johnson&Johnson, the makers of LISTERINE® and Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme.

For more information about the charity campaign and to discover great tips about how to care for your mouth, visit www.smilemonth.org.

Fall in children’s tooth extractions labelled a ‘smokescreen’ by Oral Health Foundation

The Oral Health Foundation warns that thousands of children have been left to suffer in pain for more than one year, as the number of tooth extractions for young people in England falls by more than half during the pandemic.

The number of extractions performed on decayed teeth in children aged 19 and under decreased from 35,190 in 2019-20 to 14,615 in 2020-21, data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities shows.

However, the oral health charity says the fall in the number of procedures, which take place in hospital under general anaesthetic, do not reflect any change in demand.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation says: “To report that childhood tooth extractions in England have shrunk is a smokescreen towards the reality of what is happening. Tooth decay in children has not simply disappeared over the last year which means that thousands of young people are going without the treatment they need.

“It is unfair and unjust for just one child, let alone thousands, to be put in pain because they are unable to access the care they deserve.”     

More than 12.5m NHS dental appointments for children had been lost in England since lockdown, while tooth extractions had been the most common reason for hospital admissions among young children for a generation.

“There now needs to be an urgent and decisive plan from government about how they plan to tackle the backlog in dentistry,” adds Dr Carter.  “We also need open and transparent clarity about the scale of the backlog and which NHS dental practices are able to take new patients.

“NHS dentistry is in dire needs of a new contract.  We also need to be training far more dentists.  All in all, the provision and funding for NHS dentistry falls well below the threshold that is needed for the needs of the population.”

In addition to the Oral Health Foundation seeking clarity on access to NHS dentistry, they are urging government to move forward with plans that can drastically improve rates of childhood tooth decay.

The charity is calling for the widescale implementation of a national water fluoridation scheme. Currently, as little as 11% of the UK’s water supply has fluoride added to it.

Dr Carter says: “Water fluoridation is one of the single most credible and impactful polices that can have a significant impact on tooth decay.  The data on children’s hospital extractions and community water fluoridation is staggering – in fluoridated areas, hospital admissions fall by as much as 68%.”

The charity also believes there should be further extensions to the sugar tax.

“Since it was introduced, the sugar tax has done a remarkable job at removing sugar from soft drinks,” adds Dr Carter. “It is now time this was widening to include other sugary foods and drinks. These measures would be highly effective alongside junk food advertising bans.”

The Oral Health Foundation and Denplan launch Mouth Cancer Action Charter to Parliament

The Oral Health Foundation and Denplan launched their Mouth Cancer Action Charter at a face-to-face event in the Houses of Parliament earlier this week. Members of Parliament, ministers and dental and health professionals were invited along to sign the Charter and demonstrate their support for its policy recommendations.

The Mouth Cancer Charter has been created to coincide with November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month – the UK’s biggest charity campaign for mouth cancer awareness. The campaign calls for more people to be mouthaware by being able to recognise and act on any unusual changes to the mouth.

The Oral Health Foundation and Denplan are concerned that mouth cancer referrals have significantly fallen over the pandemic period, while awareness of the major signs and symptoms of mouth cancer is very low. According to results from a recent MP survey, only 27% of MPs felt they were as well informed of the causes and symptoms of mouth cancer as they are of other leading cancers.[1]

Dr Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Denplan, part of Simplyhealth said: “We’ve worked together with the Oral Health Foundation for over 20 years on the Mouth Cancer Action Campaign, but we wanted to go one step further this year by spreading the mouth cancer awareness messages further and wider into the corridors of Westminster.”

“Mouth cancer referrals will have been significantly reduced due to the Covid pandemic restrictions last year and delays have been incurred by the dental backlog and access to NHS dentistry remaining difficult in certain areas. We urge the Government to consider these mouth cancer policy interventions. The longer the delay to implement these changes, the more lives could be lost to mouth cancer as possible cases go undetected. Top of the policy recommendation list is that we are calling on the Government to fund a public health awareness campaign on the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer.”

Recent research conducted by the Oral Health Foundation and Denplan shows that four-in-five UK adults have never been exposed to public health messaging around mouth cancer, leading to poor awareness of the early warning signs and risk factors[2].

Dr Rutland said: “If people can easily recognise the risk factors and what to look out for in terms of changes in their mouth, health professionals will also be able to catch cases earlier. Late diagnosis of mouth cancer is becoming all too common and this will have a severe effect on a person’s quality of life and their chances of survival.”

The Charter proposes that GP’s, pharmacists, care home and nursing staff should all be given enhanced training or further information about how to look out for signs and symptoms of mouth cancer to further improve early detection. Spotting signs early can increase someone’s chances of survival from 50% to 90%.

Sir Paul Beresford and Dr Nigel Carter OBE

Commenting on the policy recommendations proposed in the Charter, Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation said: “If these mouth cancer policy changes were put into action we could drive down case numbers and save the government a significant amount of money in oral cancer treatment costs.  In England, the cost of head and neck cancer treatment was £309m in 2010-11[3] and since then case numbers of mouth cancer have grown by around 67%.” 

The Mouth Cancer Action Charter highlights the following policy areas for change:

  1. Conduct a government funded public health awareness campaign of the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer.
  2. Improve access to routine dentistry to detect mouth cancers earlier and save lives.
  3. Enable enhanced training of GPs to identify suspected mouth cancers and change the NICE guidelines so that more cases can be referred to secondary care.
  4. Improve training programmes for healthcare staff to look for signs of mouth cancer.
  5. Introduce free dental check-ups and treatment for mouth cancer patients to end the unfair financial burden placed on them.
  6. Support the development of better technology to diagnose mouth cancers.

One of the key points in the mouth cancer charter is about the development of better technology to diagnose mouth cancers. During the pandemic, it has become more evident that innovation, data and technology are helping to make dentistry safer, faster and more accessible.

The use of technology in diagnostics is also becoming more important. Denplan and the Oral Health Foundation are proposing that with the support from NHSX a mobile app could be developed that would enable patients to share photographs of their mouth lesions which would then be reviewed within a short space of time by a consultant.

In addition to politicians and ministers, the Oral Health Foundation and Denplan are also asking dental professionals and other healthcare professionals to show their support and sign the Charter at www.dentalhealth.org/mouth-cancer-action-charter. More information on mouth cancer can be found on the website and by following the campaign on social media via #MouthCancerAction.

References:

[1] YouGov completed online interviews with a representative sample of 103 MPs.   The survey was completed between 6th and 28th September 2021;

[2] The research was carried out online by Research Without Barriers – RWB. All surveys were conducted between 6th October 2021 and 8th October 2021. The sample comprised 2,008 UK adults

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28734109/

Safe Smiles: new campaign set to champion the benefits of safe dentistry

The British Orthodontic Society and The Oral Health Foundation are launching a new campaign to help patients make safer choices when it comes to their dental treatment

The public awareness campaign, named Safe Smiles, will highlight the benefits of safe dentistry and treatment when carried out in dental practices by trained and registered professionals.

Safe Smiles is a dental sector response to concerns about the growth of direct-to-consumer alternatives, with the campaign’s two organisers worried about patients performing treatments at home – potentially putting themselves in danger.

The campaign was announced at this year’s British Orthodontic Society’s annual conference (16 September) in Manchester, in a joint press conference between the Oral Health Foundation and the British Orthodontic Society.

Recent research by the Oral Health Foundation reveals one-in-four (25%) UK households have opted for some form of DIY dentistry during lockdown.

The nationwide study also shows over half (55%) of adults feel they have neglected their teeth during lockdown. Around one-in-seven (15%) admit to not brushing their teeth as much as before the pandemic.  One-in-five (20%) are eating unhealthier foods, and more than one-in-ten (11%) have been drinking more alcohol. 1

Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation is worried the potential decline in oral health status may lead to poor consumer choices, with many favouring shortcuts and attracted by direct-to-consumer alternatives.

Dr Carter says: “We are really concerned by evidence suggesting the UK’s oral health habits have declined during the pandemic. Symptoms associated with dental disease – mainly pain and changes in visual appearance – are leading patients to seek quick and cheap home cosmetic treatments advertised online. This is a great cause for concern and one of the key driving forces behind Safe Smiles.

“Dental treatment of any kind must involve face-to-face contact with a trained clinical professional inside the dental practice. This is to ensure patient safety and the most effective treatment.  It is important that the profession continues to champion safe dentistry and advise patients against direct-to-consumer treatments and alternatives shared on social media.

“When carried out correctly, cosmetic dental treatment can give patients the white, straight and confident smile they have always dreamed about. Safe Smiles will make sure patients are given the very best advice about the safest and most effective way to have dental treatment.”

Further findings from The British Orthodontic Society suggest that adults have become more conscious of their smile during lockdown. Over half of orthodontists (60%) say they have seen a larger than expected demand for treatment during the pandemic. It is suspected those affected could be looking for solutions to treat dental problems and improve the appearance of their smile.  

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Anshu Sood, Director of Clinical Practice at the British Orthodontic Society, says: “We’re delighted to be extending our long-standing campaign with the Oral Health Foundation. It’s heartening to see overwhelming endorsement from the dental sector. This couldn’t be more timely. Our recent stats revealed the pandemic has seen a rise in the number of people seeking orthodontic treatment. With this demand comes a growth in online companies offering treatments.

“Embarking on treatment without seeing a suitably trained clinician could result in serious conditions being missed or dangerous treatment carried out. We want to ensure patients have the very best advice about the safest and most effective way to have treatment. We know that, when carried out correctly, orthodontic treatment can have a positive and life-changing impact.”  

Data shows that more than four-in-five (84%) UK adults want to change something about their smile. Over the next year, more than one-in-three (35%) are thinking about having their teeth whitened while around one-in-six (16%) are considering orthodontic treatment. 1

Safe Smiles will be asking all patients considering treatments to visit dental practices in the UK and have treatment carried out by clinicians registered with the GDC.

The campaign will tackle the dangers associated with dental tourism, inappropriately fitting mouthguards bought online, as well as harmful aesthetic changes to the mouth like lip tattoos, oral piercings, tooth jewellery, modifications and grillz.

The new campaign is being supported by Align Technology and has gathered support from across the dental world. The campaign has already received endorsement from the British Dental Industry Association, British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, British Dental Bleaching Society, British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy, British Association of Dental Nurses, and British Association of Dental Therapists.

Edmund Proffitt, BDIA Chief Executive, says: “The British Dental Industry Association is delighted to be supporting Safe Smiles. With ever growing interest in cosmetic dental work, the dental industry feels that it is very important that patients can achieve a healthy smile in a safe environment. Be it orthodontic work, tooth whitening or any other aesthetic dental treatment, working with trained dental professionals within a dental practice is a great way to get safe and effective treatment.

“With some unsafe and unregulated online and ‘do-it-yourself’ treatments available, and unfortunately, a number of unregulated practitioners offering treatments, we thoroughly recommend that patients engage directly with dental professionals to get the best, safest healthy smile.”

Jacqui Elsden, BADN President: “We’re thrilled to be supporting safe smiles. With the rise in popularity of unsafe do it yourself treatments and unregulated providers, we hope that this campaign will help patients become more aware of these dangers and think twice before they purchase them. We recommend that patients engage in this initiative and take steps to safely pursue treatment options.”

Zaki Kanaan, Chairman of the British Dental Bleaching Society: “There is no doubt that one of the most common cosmetic dental procedures that is carried out routinely in dental practices is tooth whitening. Done properly, by a dental care professional, tooth whitening is one of the least invasive ways to improve one’s smile. This popularity has led to the growth of direct-to-consumer options that often get around the legality by using non-peroxide based products that not only have little to no efficacy in whitening one’s teeth but many OTC products are in fact harmful to teeth and their surrounding structures. Members of the public seeking OTC products are leaving themselves open to harm with virtually no recourse when things go wrong.  Over many years at The British Dental Bleaching Society we have been striving to highlight to the public this exact issue and we therefore fully support The Safe Smiles Campaign.”

A special toolkit has been created to help dental professionals support the campaign and share the importance of safe dentistry.

The toolkit is available on the campaign website at www.dentalhealth.org/safesmiles.

Reference:

  1. ORAL HEALTH FOUNDATION (2020) ‘National Dental Survey’ Atomik Research. UK. Sample 2,004.

Oral Health Foundation welcomes pre-watershed junk food advertising ban

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 some heart-wrenching personal accounts of having to perform tooth extractions on young children.

Dr Atkins adds: “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 says: “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.”

New dental survey of children highlights stark inequalities in England

A dental survey of three-year-olds in England has revealed stark oral health inequalities within England. The Oral Health Foundation, a leading oral health charity, believe community water fluoridation holds the key to bridging the gap and are calling on the government to act.

The report investigated nearly 20,000 three-year-olds from across England and found more than one-in-ten (10.7%) already have tooth decay.  On average, each child had three decayed teeth.

The survey also highlights regional differences amongst young children. Three-year-olds living in the Yorkshire and Humber are more than twice as likely to experience tooth decay (14.7%) than children living in the East of England (6.7%).

Dr Ben Atkins, President of the Oral Health Foundation, believes these statistics highlight an urgent need to address the oral health of children in this country and would like the government to do more.

Dr Atkins says: “These statistics are worrying indeed, especially when looking at the stark regional differences. The last survey of this nature was carried out in 2013 and since then very little progress has been made. This stagnation is due to a lack of action and clear direction from government, both at a local and national level, when it comes to addressing oral health inequalities in the UK.

“As a charity, we believe that community water fluoridation holds the key to improving the oral health of children up and down the country. Under new NHS reform plans announced earlier this year, the government pledged to take back control of community water fluoridation in order to make the process of implementing schemes both more efficient and less costly.

“We need to hold the government accountable for this and hope that in years to come we will see more and more community water fluoridation schemes.”

Fluoride has been researched extensively for decades now and has been found time and time again to be very effective in protecting teeth from decay and erosion. When added into the water supply studies have shown it can reduce tooth decay by up to 35%.

The charity believes water fluoridation would be especially effective for those living in more deprived areas where access to dental care may be limited.

The report also revealed that children living in the most deprived areas of the country were almost three times as likely to have experience of tooth decay (16.6%) as those living in the least deprived areas (5.9%).

Dr Ben Atkins concludes that, whilst we wait to see improvements made, everyone can take steps to better their oral health by following a strong oral health routine at home.

Dr Atkins says: “There is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to addressing oral health inequalities in this country. However, while we strive towards that goal, we would encourage everyone, including children,  to brush their teeth with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice a day.  This, along with cleaning in between your teeth daily, can set you and your children up with a healthy smile for life.”

For more information on the importance of good oral health, as well as the benefits of fluoride, visit the Oral Health Foundation’s website at www.dentalhealth.org.  Furthermore, if anyone requires dental advice then they can contact our Dental Helpline on 01788 539780. The Helpline is staffed by trained dental professionals and is open from 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday. Calls are charged at your standard network rate.

New report claims millions of Brits are at increased risk of tooth decay

More than 45 million British adults are at an increased risk of tooth decay, according to a new report.1 Figures collected by the Oral Health Foundation and Colgate-Palmolive show that more than four-in-five (84%) of all adults in the UK fall into groups that put them at higher risk of the disease.1

The research found that one-in-five (21%) Brits have ‘moderate-to-high’ sugar diets, have not visited a dentist in the last two years (21%), or do not brush their teeth twice a day (19%) – all of which increase a person’s chances of developing tooth decay. 1

Tooth decay can lead to expensive fillings, root canal treatment or a person needing to have a tooth extraction.

The latest data from NHS Digital shows there are 9.7 million band two treatments in England a year. These include fillings, root canal work and extractions.2

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation says tooth decay can have a devastating effect on a person’s quality of life and more must be done to reduce the number of people affected by the disease.

Dr Carter says: “Tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease in the UK, yet it is entirely preventable. Anybody can suffer from tooth decay but there are a few things that can increase the risk.

“Tooth decay is caused by poor oral hygiene, as well as eating or drinking too much sugar too often. It is also linked with not having regular dental check-ups.

“Those on medications containing sugar or that cause dry mouth can also put a person at greater risk. We also know that diabetics and orthodontic patients are also more likely to have tooth decay. Together these makes up a significant proportion of the population.

“In its early stages, tooth decay can cause mild pain, but in extreme cases it can have a debilitating impact on a person’s life. For a better quality of life, it is critical to know how identify tooth decay in the early stages or prevent it from happening at all.”

Toothache and tooth sensitivity to sweet things are two of the most likely signs of tooth decay. Dark spots on the surfaces of the teeth and an unpleasant taste in the mouth are further signs to look out for.

“If anybody falls into one of the high-risk groups, or notices the early signs of tooth decay, they should book an appointment with their dental team for an assessment,” adds Dr Carter. “They will be able to help somebody lower their risk and offer a range of different options for preventing and treating tooth decay at home or while at work. One of which may be prescribing a high fluoride toothpaste.”

In the UK, around eight-in-ten adults have one or more teeth with decay, that are filled or have been pulled out due to decay. It is also extremely common in children, with more than one-in-five showing signs of tooth decay.3

To help more people identify their risk of tooth decay and how to spot the early warning signs, the charity has partnered with Colgate-Palmolive to launch a new educational campaign. The initiative, The Truth About Tooth Decay also gives advice for preventing the condition.

Scientific Affairs Project Manager at Colgate Emanuele Cotroneo, highlights the importance of preventing tooth decay.

Dr Cotroneo says: “The best way to prevent tooth decay is by brushing the teeth thoroughly last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with a 1450ppm fluoride toothpaste. This should take around two minutes.

“When brushing, make sure the inner, outer and biting surfaces of the teeth are brushed carefully, and remember to brush along the gumline. Using ‘interdental’ brushes, or dental floss or tape, also helps to remove plaque and food from between the teeth. These are areas an ordinary toothbrush can’t reach. Daily use of a fluoride mouthwash in between brushing can also help.”

The Truth About Tooth Decay can be found at www.dentalhealth.org/thetruthabouttoothdecay.

For anybody looking for help or support with their oral health, the charity also has a Dental Helpline which offers free advice. You can call the Dental Helpline on 01788 539780 or email helpline@dentalhealth.org.

REFERENCES

  1. Oral Health Foundation and Colgate-Palmolive (2020) ‘Dental Caries Awareness Survey’, UK, Broadcast Revolution, Sample 2,008.
  2. NHS Digital (2020) ‘NHS Dental Statistics’, online at https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/nhs-dental-statistics/2019-20-annual-report#related-links, accessed on January 2020.
  3. Office for National Statistics (2009) ‘Adult Dental Health Survey’, online at https://www.ukdataservice.ac.uk/media/428503/osullivanadhs.pdf

Dental charity’s new website gives new opportunities to campaign for better oral health

The Oral Health Foundation has re-launched its website, with the focus on giving its supporters more opportunities to be actively involved in raising awareness of important causes.

The new online platform not only allows visitors to support all the charity’s campaigns and activities, such as National Smile Month (which is now underway for 2018), but also gives many more chance to participate in them.

The website (www.dentalhealth.org) also houses its own dedicated fundraising platform, which means that individuals and groups can create and share their own fundraising efforts and raise money for a series of charitable causes related to oral health.  

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, is excited by the possibilities brought by the new website.

Dr Carter said: “For more than 45 years’ we have worked with people and organisations who are passionate about raising awareness of oral health. This new website is all about providing these supporters with a platform which will make campaigning for oral health issues easier and more effective.

“Our new home also allows you to take a more in-depth look at who we are and what we do. Our charitable activities and the causes we support sometimes go under the radar, so we are delighted to be better able to share our successes with our supporters, the ones who make it all possible.”

As part of the launch, the charity’s patient-facing information, which was accessed by more than three million visitors last year, has been adapted to make it simpler for people to find what they need.

The Oral Health Foundation has also delivered a multi-language portal, which allows users to access all their oral health information across nine other world languages.

“It has been a remarkable project and one that we hope can have a real and tangible effect on the general public’s knowledge about oral health.

“More than 600,000 words have been translated by native-language speakers to ensure patients from as many countries as possible have access to trusted oral health information. These can also be used by health professionals for non-English speaking patients, with confidence and reassurance about the quality of information.”  

Visitors can also read about the latest oral health news, take interest in a series of new blogs and read the charity’s digital magazine.

The Oral Health Foundation’s Dental Helpline will also be available for those seeking answers to their oral health questions. The free advice line is staffed by fully trained and qualified dental experts and has been a useful tool for health professionals looking to point patients in the right direction in between appointments.

The charity is also excited to announce the launch of a brand-new online shop, which makes it easier for dental teams and oral health educators to find and purchase all the products they for oral health promotion.

Director of Educational Resources at the charity, Amanda Oakey, said: “Oral health promoters and professionals see such a wide range of people throughout the course of their careers and all these people require different needs.

“That’s why we spend a great deal of time producing high quality information and oral hygiene products to health professionals for their patients and local community.

“Our new online shop features our entire catalogue of more than 500 products and is incredible easy-to-use. I urge anybody involved in promoting oral health to go online and take a look.”

The redesigned website is live now at www.dentalhealth.org.