News & Events

New findings: Survey of dental professionals reveals a significant impact on patients’ oral health since the beginning of the pandemic

19 March 2021

For World Oral Health Day 2021, the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme has published the results of our second annual dental professionals survey. The survey asked our website users about how COVID-19 has impacted the industry and the preventative measures they recommend to patients.

Key findings:

  • Over three-quarters of dental professionals have seen a significant impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the oral health of their patients
  • Nearly two-thirds don’t expect to see normal service resume for at least 6 months to a year
  • 71% are now recommending at-home oral health tools to protect patients’ oral health
  • Sugarfree gum was recommended by 71% of survey respondents as an at-home oral healthcare tool

The survey of 420 dental professionals subscribed to the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme website revealed that just over three quarters (76%) have seen a significant, or very significant, impact on patients’ oral health since the beginning of the pandemic. Three-quarters of those who have seen a significant or very significant impact on the oral health of their patients have noticed a decline in routine dental appointments during the pandemic.

Dental professionals continue to worry about the impact that continued lockdowns are having on their ability to see and treat patients. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) said they expect normal service to resume within either the next 6 months to a year, demonstrating the ongoing impact the pandemic is having on dentistry.

It is clear that preventative oral health tools have played an important role for dental professionals during the pandemic, with 71% of survey respondents saying they had shifted to recommending at-home oral health tools such as floss and mouthwash while their patients have been unable to access treatment or attend physical practices.

Dental professionals also recognised the important role that chewing sugarfree gum can play in helping to protect patients’ oral health and prevent caries when at home. The survey revealed that 71% of dental professionals recommend the use of sugarfree gum as an oral health tool for their patients. 78% of those who recommended sugarfree gum, did so because of the recognised benefits that chewing sugarfree gum can have on oral health. Additionally, 76% of respondents recognised the accessibility of sugarfree gum, and just over half (53%) praised the fact that it is inexpensive for patients to buy.

Eddie Crouch, Chair of the British Dental Association commented on the survey results: "The impact COVID has had on the nation's oral health will be felt for years to come. Even before COVID deep health inequalities and access problems were the norm, and now both have been set into overdrive. 'Business as usual' will not be returning any time soon, and policymakers, patients and practitioners all need to make the right choices if we're to avert an oral health crisis."

Dr Ben Atkins, President of the Oral Health Foundation said: “It is clear that the dental profession has faced an unprecedented challenge in the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first lockdown, dentists were unable to operate practically any services except urgent care and the subsequent COVID-19 guidance for the industry, whilst essential for dentists’ and patients’ safety, has meant that most practices are unable to see the volume of patients they’d like. This survey highlights the important role that at-home measures have played in protecting the oral health of the nation while people are unable to access regular dental care, and the role they will likely continue to play as we look ahead to hopefully exiting lockdown.” 

Thank you to our website users who kindly contributed their views to the survey. The findings will inform the activity of the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme over the next twelve months.

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New research: public health guidelines for oral health are not aligned with today’s eating habits

25 January 2021

A new report has revealed that current public health guidelines for oral health are not aligned with our eating and drinking habits. The gap between what and when we eat and drink, and the measures we take to protect our teeth may be a contributing factor to the high prevalence of tooth decay. Tooth decay continues to be a major problem in the UK, placing significant burden not just on individuals but also on dental care professionals, the NHS and society.

Data from a new independent survey shows most respondents (83%) consume at least one snack between meals and almost half (48%) enjoy two snacks or more per day, however no oral health intervention is made after 56% of morning snacks and 60% of afternoon snacks1. Taking into account this ‘grazing’ culture, it suggests that our oral health routines may not be sufficient and further interventions are required.  

The Eat, Drink, Think report recommends that the current guidelines should be broadened to ensure that people are taking the necessary steps to protect their teeth when they are most prone to plaque acid attack and when brushing is not possible.

Dr Ben Atkins, a general dental practitioner, says: “Brushing twice a day remains the single most effective preventative oral health measure, but as the Eat, Drink, Think report indicates, eating and drinking habits have changed and patient’s attitudes to oral health must adapt too. The use of sugarfree gum can supplement existing oral health routines, and this should be reflected in the current guidelines.”

To download and read the full Eat, Drink, Think report visit the Research & Evidence section on the website. For further information on the report and on the benefits of chewing sugarfree gum, please contact:

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Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme presents two new CPD modules

11 October 2020

The Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme (WOHP) is proud to present two new CPD modules, developed in partnership with King’s College London (KCL), Peninsula Dental School and the Oral Health Foundation. The modules have been developed after WOHP held a two-part webinar series discussing the concept and implementation of minimum intervention oral healthcare and the role of sugarfree gum. This came after KCL published their systematic review of the role that sugarfree gum plays in preventing caries.

The first module, Chew on this! Does sugar-free gum help prevent caries? focuses on the concept of minimum intervention oral healthcare delivery and sugarfree gum in preventative regimes. Speakers for this session were Professor Avijit Banerjee BDS MSc PhD (Lond) LDS FDS (Rest Dent) FDSRCS (Eng) FHEA, Professor of Cariology & Operative Dentistry, KCL, Dr. Michael Dodds, BDS, PhD, Oral Health Lead Scientist for Mars Wrigley; and Professor J. Tim Newton BA PhD CPsychol AFBPS CSci FHEAm Newton, BA, PhD, Professor and Consultant in Psychology as Applied to Dentistry, KCL.

They systematically reviewed and synthesised the findings of published studies exploring the oral health impact of chewing sugarfree gum and the health benefits of salivary stimulation.

With an hour of verifiable CPD, this module aims to:

  • Describe the minimum intervention approach towards delivering better oral health;
  • Outline the effects of sugarfree gum on oral tissues and their effectiveness in different populations;
  • Discuss the implementation of sugarfree gum in minimum intervention preventive regimes to help combat oral diseases/conditions;
  • Highlight the range of published studies that have explored the impact of sugarfree gum on oral health; and
  • Outline the effects of sugarfree gum on salivary flow.

The anticipated outcome of this module is that dental health professionals maintain and develop their knowledge and skill within their field of practice.

The second module, Chewing it over! Implementation of sugarfree gum in caries prevention regimes, considered how to best communicate with patients to achieve behaviour change, as well as the implementation of oral health strategies in general practice. Chaired by Professor Banerjee, speakers for this session were Professor Elizabeth Kay, MBE BDS MPH FDSRCPS FDSRCSE FFGDP PhD, Emeritus Professor and Editor of Evidence Based Dentistry, Peninsula Dental School, Professor J. Tim Newton and Dr Ben Atkins BDS, President, the Oral Health Foundation and General Dental Practitioner.

With an hour of verifiable CPD, this module aims to:

  • Identify practical brief chair side interventions to behaviour change in dental practice;
  • Identify relevant facilitating factors and barriers to practitioner/patient communication;
  • Identify strategies to ensure the advice offered by the dental professional is received and recalled by the patient; and
  • Seek the view of practitioners regarding what materials and tools they find useful to support patients to change their behaviour.

The anticipated outcome of this module is that dental professionals will be effectively able to communicate with patients and fellow dental professionals to obtain consent and deal with complaints. In addition to this, dental professionals will gain knowledge on how to effectively manage others in their team, providing constructive leadership in the interests of patients.

Please visit our CPD page to take both courses.

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Dr Ben Atkins: Will COVID-19 widen the oral health gap?

28 July 2020

President of the Oral Health Foundation and Wrigley’s Ambassador Dr Ben Atkins considers the need to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t widen the current oral health gap in his recent exclusive for Density Online.

With dental practises beginning to re-open after several months of closure alongside changes in our routines and eating habits during lockdown, Dr Atkins writes that “having a conversation about oral health is now more important than ever” with this difficult period we face as a nation having emphasised the importance of a smile:

“A smile shows others – from the postman and our neighbours to friends and family – that we are here for each other. When we cannot hug or shake hands, a smile becomes our main tool to connect with others.”

Pointing to the regional variation in oral health outcomes, underlined by socio-economic factors, he emphasises the need to ensure that the oral health of those from the most deprived backgrounds is not exacerbated further by the current crisis.

Referencing a recent Oral Health Foundation survey which found that those from lower-income households were less likely to use dental floss, mouthwash or sugarfree gum, or be aware of their clinical benefits, he identities levelling up patient education as a crucial step in addressing this oral health gap. Dr Atkins concludes:

Ensuring we all know how to best keep our mouths healthy is a good first step in closing the oral health gap. This year’s National Smile Month made some great progress in reaching out to those groups where oral disease is far too common. Activities like the Great British Brushathon and oral health home schooling helped to improve dental education amongst disadvantaged communities. But there is still much to do!

Maintaining a healthy smile can be really simple, and it plays a key role in supporting an individual’s broader physical and mental wellbeing. But we know that for many this isn’t the case. Where you were born or how much your family earns should not determine your risk of dental disease. It’s essential that we do more to support those from the most vulnerable and deprived communities. Everyone’s lives have changed to some degree due to the current pandemic. But we must ensure that oral health does not take a back seat – we need to level up the country’s oral health.”

Read the full piece from Dr Atkins here.

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