A new report commissioned by the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme has found that rolling out three preventative oral
health interventions could reduce unnecessary trips to the dentist, saving individuals and the NHS millions of
pounds, while freeing up capacity to deliver up to 8.3m more check-ups.
The report, Economic Value of Good Oral Health, was undertaken by Frontier Economics and has today been launched by
the Wrigley to mark the Oral Health Foundation’s National Smile Month.
It shows that if most people chewed sugar-free chewing gum three times a day, there could be an estimated 109,430
fewer tooth extractions carried out on the NHS every year. Additionally, there would be up to 182,383 fewer fillings
and 36,477 fewer root canals. The associated savings to NHS dental services could reach over £7.9m – which, if
reinvested, could fund an additional 1.29m check-ups every year.
Chewing sugar-free gum was one of three potential preventative interventions measured by Frontier Economics.
In addition, rolling out water fluoridation to the 90% of the population who are not already covered in England and
Wales would reduce incidents of tooth decay by an estimated 6%. The resultant impact would be an estimated 1.2m
fewer tooth extractions, 1.6m fewer fillings, and over 226,000 fewer root canal treatments every year. NHS dental
services would stand to save over £35m per year as a result – the equivalent of funding 5.7m check-ups.
A programme of supervised brushing, targeted at children aged between three and six living in the poorest 20% of
areas, would save the NHS £8m a year. The measure could lead to 28,000 fewer tooth extractions, 28,000 fewer
fillings, and 2,700 fewer root canal treatments per year.
In total, if all three oral health prevention policies were rolled out in England and Wales, it is calculated that
combined savings to the NHS could reach £51m and there could be up to:
- 1.43m fewer tooth extractions;
- 1.8m fewer fillings; and
- Over 265,000 fewer root canal treatments every year.
Meanwhile, NHS dental patients could save up to £95.9m collectively by avoiding the need for urgent treatments and
making the need for check-ups less frequent.
Commenting on the launch of the report, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation said:
“The NHS is currently struggling to fund the dentistry this country needs and deserves. Pressures on staffing are
hitting all areas of health care. A simple increase in funding will not sort out these problems for several
years. In the meantime, it is evident that if we can move to a preventative approach, we can have much healthier
“We can reach all areas of society with the implementation of more water fluoridation schemes. If we take on the
suggested plans for fluoridation in the new report, it will result in an estimated 1.2m fewer tooth extractions
and 1.6m fewer fillings every year. The oral health benefits of chewing sugar-free gum three times per day could
also prevent a substantial number of fillings a year, a fantastic result from a very simple habit.
“We need to make impactful and long-term changes to how we handle oral health in the UK to secure a better oral
health future. It would help relieve pressure on NHS funding for dentistry and improve people’s oral health
related quality of life. Having a healthy mouth is an essential part of having good overall general health.”
Dr Mike Dodds, BDS PhD, Senior Principal Scientist with the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program, said:
“The evidence has long shown that sugar-free chewing gum can promote good oral health. Chewing gum can help
neutralise plaque acids, maintain tooth mineralisation, and reduce the incidence of dental caries.
“We know that dental services are under real strain right now, with a backlog from the pandemic still being
worked through. So the role of preventative policies, that can help reduce demand on services, is more important
“Chewing sugar-free gum is one simple, effective and enjoyable thing people can do to prevent tooth decay and
support good oral health.”
Speaking to the research, Matthew Bell, Board Director and co-Head of Public Policy at Frontier Economics
“Oral health is important for overall health, which can also translate into lower dental costs for individuals
and for the NHS.
“Our report draws on existing evidence and presents new analysis linking improved oral health measures, such as
fluoridation, sugar-free gum and supervised brushing programmes, to reduced dental costs for individuals and for
the NHS, alongside improved health and wellbeing.”
Notes for editors:
- For further information on the findings, or to speak to a spokesperson, please contact Francesca Forrester
Wood at WOHP@lexcomm.co.uk or 07534 160 828. Copies of Frontier Economics’ report are available on request.
- Frontier’s findings were based on a population size of 100,000 and assumes the measures will result in:
90% of the English population benefitting from water fluoridation and 100% of the Welsh population.
- 70% of adults and children aged 10 and over chewing sugar free gum.
- 20% of children aged between 3 and 6 targeted with supervised brushing.
For the purposes of this press release, Frontier’s sample size was scaled up to the England & Wales
NHS England spends around £2.3 billion on dentistry each year, but people in many areas do not have access
to a local NHS dentist – creating so-called ‘dental deserts’ across the country. Nine in ten NHS dental
practices across the UK are not accepting new adult patients for treatments under the health service, and
eight in ten are not taking on children.
- A YouGov poll of 1,723 adults for the British Dental Association recently found that 23 per cent delay
appointments or go without NHS dental treatment because of the cost. Just under a third of people haven’t
seen a dental professional in the last two years.
- This latest report builds on previous research which has found that chewing sugar-free gum could lead to
cost savings for the NHS by reducing the need for treatment (Claxon L, et al – Oral health promotion: The
economic benefits to the NHS of increased use of sugarfree gum in the UK, 2016).
- Frontier estimated the potential benefits of three preventative oral health interventions: water fluoridation,
supervised brushing and sugar-free gum.
- Frontier’s approach had four stages:
- Gathered together the published evidence on these preventative interventions.
- Identified the reduction in oral health problems (e.g. tooth decay) that is estimated to result from
- Estimated the dental treatments (e.g. tooth extractions) that could be avoided as a result.
- Estimated the cost saving to the NHS and NHS patients from avoided dental treatments.
- Frontier gathered evidence and data from clinical and academic literature and from the NHS.
- Frontier built an economic model to estimate the financial savings using this approach.
- Frontier analysed multiple scenarios, to test the sensitivity of the results to changes in the underlying assumptions.
- Frontier identified areas where this analysis could be improved upon in future research.
- Frontier’s report is available in full, upon request.