The Dentist Magazine.

Mind the gap: The oral health essentials that the nation is missing

Published: 22/05/2018

The British public could be putting their oral health, and even their general health, at risk as new research reveals that millions are overlooking the basic oral health essentials such as brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist.

The annual survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Simplyhealth Professionals, revealed shocking statistics including that only two thirds of adults brush twice a day (69 per cent), with two per cent admitting that they never brush.

Flossing is also frequently ignored, with one in three adults (37 per cent) admitting they never take the time to floss, despite the fact that 63 per cent know that it helps to avoid gum disease. When questioned why they don’t floss more regularly, 27 per cent said they couldn’t be bothered or find it boring.

Furthermore, almost one in 10 (7 per cent) are avoiding the dental chair and said they never visit the dentist.

Commenting on the figures, Henry Clover, chief dental officer at Simplyhealth Professionals, said, “With the busy lifestyles that people lead, it’s tempting to skip brushing or flossing, or delay visits to the dentist. A good oral health routine is an essential everyday activity that helps to protect against tooth decay and gum disease. Moreover, with studies increasingly finding links between poor oral health and conditions such as heart disease, strokes and diabetes, looking after your oral health is important for your general health too.”

Those adults avoiding the dentist could also be setting a bad example for the younger generation, with over a fifth (22 per cent) of parents of children aged 18 or under saying their child only brushes their teeth once a day or less, with two per cent saying their child never brushes.

Childhood tooth decay continues to be a huge issue in the UK, and remains the number one reason why children aged five to nine years old are admitted to hospital in England. 19 per cent of parents surveyed said their child had at least one filling and, shockingly, 46 per cent saying their child had their first filling when they were seven years old or younger.

Worryingly, the survey also revealed that 83 per cent of adults said they never check their mouths for signs of mouth cancer. With recent figures showing that cases of mouth cancer are up by a third in the last decade, and with around 18 people being diagnosed with the disease every day in the UK, the implications of not self-checking could be serious.

“Regular visits to the dentist can help to spot the early signs of mouth cancer, but it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and any changes that you see or feel in your mouth between dental appointments,” explains Henry. “These can include unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or head and neck area; ulcers that don’t heal within three weeks; and red and white patches in the mouth.”