Shaping the future of the country’s oral healthcare

03 July 2024

Bas and Haleon outline what it would like to see from the next government, with an emphasis on preventative care.

It’s clear that access to NHS dental care is becoming out of reach for many in the UK and that current measures to support the industry are insufficient. Oral health professionals are finding themselves under extreme pressure, with many looking to leave the NHS, creating further gaps in their ability to provide care and treatment.

As a result, the rising inaccessibility of dental care and inadequate oral health education have led to one million children never visiting the dentist. It’s incredibly important that the next government, whatever shape or form, puts preventative care at the heart of its plans for dentistry. We have seen some political parties' manifestos that include reforming the NHS dental contract to focus on preventative oral care. While it is positive that there is a general consensus that this needs to happen, there lies a huge gap in delivery and implementation, something that will take time and financial investment to overcome.

In addition to focusing on preventative care, we welcome the majority of political parties outlining how they plan to solve the widely reported ‘dental deserts’ in their manifestos. With this lies an opportunity for more to be done by both government and industry in partnership, to help alleviate the dental health crisis the UK is facing. It is positive to see that many political parties are looking to increase accessibility and availability of dentists. But, given the links between oral health and wider health and wellbeing, it is important that we reflect on the fact that many oral health conditions are preventable.

Haleon recognises the power of health literacy in improving oral health. Its longstanding Shine Bright programme works with schools to teach children how to properly care for their teeth. By empowering people to prioritise a good oral health routine and championing preventative oral care, we can seek to reduce the impact of poor oral health on individuals, society, and our healthcare system.

To better understand how we can support preventative oral care, Haleon partnered with the College of General Dentistry to launch the Dental Health Barometer in 2023. Our research surveyed consumers and oral health professionals to paint a picture of the nation’s attitudes and experiences towards prevention. The findings revealed a consensus amongst consumers and dental health professionals that prevention is an important foundation for good dental and general health.

However, in practice, not all routine dental appointments provide patients with crucial advice on prevention. Despite 87 per cent of oral health professionals believing preventative oral healthcare advice is beneficial for patients, only 34 per cent said they were able to always offer it.  As we continue working together to further this campaign in 2024, the general election presents us with new opportunity to ensure that prevention remains included in all of the key conversations surrounding oral health and dentistry.

The next government has the opportunity to shape the future of the country’s oral healthcare. By championing oral health and dentistry, they can reduce the impact of preventative oral health issues that can cause further problems.

As a leading consumer health company, Haleon wants to play its part in empowering people to practice better everyday self-care, and oral care has a key role in that. We look forward to seeing what the next administration brings.