Cost of living crisis contributing to deterioration of oral health, claims charity

07 June 2022
3 min read
Published:

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 10 (94 per cent) of UK adults have been affected in some way by the rising cost of living, with nearly two-in-three (62 per cent) experiencing a significant increase in their outgoings. 

Data reveals around four-in-five (82 per cent) are being forced into making sacrifices into their spending habits. As a result, one-in-four (25 per cent) are 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 per cent) who have not visited a dentist in over two years while one-in-four (25 per cent) 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 10 (12 per cent) 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. 

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 per cent) and tv subscriptions (43 per cent) 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 per cent) spend as little as £2 a week.  Worryingly, twice as many households (22 per cent) are now cutting back on how much they spend on their oral health compared to those who are choosing to spend more (11 per cent). 

The rise in the cost of living has led over half (55 per cent) 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 per cent) 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 Nigel.

“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.

Nigel 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