One-third of the population is anxious about their oral health

18 March 2024

The Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program’s ‘Oral Health Index’, published to coincide with World Oral Health Day on March 20, 2024, shows broad public disenchantment with dental services across the country.

While 68 per cent of people say they feel more confident with a healthy smile, nearly a third of people (32 per cent) report being stressed or anxious about the state of their oral health.

One in ten people (10 per cent) in England have missed more than two weeks of work in the past three years due to dental problems. The younger workforce has been hit twice as hard, with one in five 16- to 34-year-olds reported to have missed at least a fortnight of work over oral health problems.

Two-thirds of respondents (64 per cent) believe the country is experiencing a crisis in dental service provision, a proportion broadly similar to 2022’s Index (67 per cent).

An overwhelming majority (72 per cent) of people want to see more investment from the government in dental services. Over three in five (62 per cent) want dental professionals to be paid more for NHS work, three-quarters (76 per cent) think more dental professionals should be recruited, and nearly half (46 per cent) support fluoridation as a measure to support good oral health.

Economic research commissioned by the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme in 2023 showed that rolling out supervised toothbrushing programmes for children in targeted areas, expanding the coverage of water fluoridation schemes, and encouraging the public to chew sugar-free gum could together save the NHS over £50m per year. NHS patients could collectively save £95.9m a year.

Speaking on publication of the ‘Oral Health Index’ on behalf of the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme, Ben Atkins said, “Without regular dental check-ups, smaller and preventable oral health issues can easily turn into much larger problems that require urgent and lengthy treatments. This is leaving people in pain and resulting in them taking extended periods of time off work, too.

“The findings have underscored the importance of addressing the crisis in NHS dentistry. A mix of investment in services and preventative programmes is needed, and we want to see the contribution that sugar-free chewing gum can make to good oral health reflected in national guidance.”

Eddie Crouch, British Dental Association chair, said, “The collapse of NHS dentistry isn’t just hurting millions of patients, but the wider economy. Every time ministers take a miserly approach to funding it hits other parts of their balance sheet. Not just the costs hitting our hospitals and GP surgeries, but the millions of lost hours in our workplaces."