2 Nov 2023

New figures reveal almost six-in-ten (59%) Brits say they see the same dentist more consistently than they see the same GP, showing the vital role dentists have in the health of people’s lives.

The findings come from an annual Oral Healthcare Report by Denplan, a leading dental plan specialist and part of the Simplyhealth group.

The research shows 28% of people have also discussed non-oral health-related problems with their dentist, and 15% have been referred to another health practitioner following an appointment.

However, the report also finds at least 40% of those under 55 have cancelled a dental appointment because they could not afford it.

Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director, Denplan and Simplyhealth, says: “Dentistry has been a prominent fixture in the UK media and within government discussions, particularly in the past year. The UK dental sector crisis has left many patients struggling to have their basic needs met, with some groups in society far worse off than others.

“Cost of living pressures have understandably led to prevention slipping down people’s list of priorities. Sadly, many people cancelled appointments because they couldn’t afford them, then later paid for emergency treatment when problems had worsened.”

The report is one of the most comprehensive surveys of attitudes and habits in UK dentistry, with over 5,000 consumers who use both NHS and private dentists participating.

It reveals that 41% of respondents had travelled abroad for dental care, attempted some form of DIY dentistry by ordering at-home kits, or searched Google for dental advice. Of respondents who travelled abroad for treatment, they only saw a success rate of 50%.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “Denplan’s report has uncovered some extremely troubling consumer habits when it comes to having dental treatment. The findings support the reasoning behind one of our awareness campaigns, Safe Smiles, which provides people with advice about the best ways to receive safe and effective dental work.

“There are significant risks with going abroad for dental treatment and DIY treatments at home. It is buyer beware. If you are thinking about having any dental treatment, please speak to your dentist in the UK first.”

The report also shows people are visiting the dentist less frequently than a year ago, with 23% visiting less than every two years, only when they’re in pain, or not at all (compared with 20% in 2022). 

Catherine Rutland adds: “To keep communities healthy, there needs to be a joined-up approach to the way that dentistry is viewed within healthcare and government.

“When considering how best to improve access to dentistry, we must not consider the reform of the NHS contract in isolation. We must also recognise the role of mixed and private practices in communities and wider initiatives such as making better use of the wider dental team to carry out a range of services.”

Link: Read the full Oral Healthcare Report.