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Women being forced to grit their teeth and bear it when it comes to oral health

09 November 2023

Women being forced to grit their teeth and bear it when it comes to oral health

  • One-in-two women (50%) across the UK believe the cost-of-living-crisis is negatively impacting their oral health, according to data from a national survey.* 
  • Overall, there has been an uptick in anxiety around oral health, with cost-of-living concerns and an ongoing shortage of accessible NHS dentistry services.
  • Worries about the high cost of dental care are also particularly concerning for young adults, with a third of 25 to 34-year-olds (33%) exploring cheaper overseas treatment options.*  

For release 06/11/23 – Women face heightened oral health risks compared to men, thanks to the hormonal fluctuations associated with menstruation, birth control, and menopause.

Now, newly-released data from the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme’s Oral Health Index has shown that more women (48%) believe there has been no improvement to accessing dental services since the pandemic, compared to men (32%). 

The Index also found that nearly a third (32%) of women report they are less likely to visit a dentist due to the cost-of-living-crisis.  

The findings precede the publication of the Government's Dental Recovery Plan, which is due to be released ahead of the new year in an effort to tackle the UK’s NHS dental crisis. 

Unaffordable dentistry is also hitting young people hard. 56% of people aged 25 to 34-years-old believe their dental health will suffer amidst soaring living costs, and 1 in 3 would consider exploring overseas treatment options for affordability.* 

Separate research from Frontier Economics has shown the value preventative oral health measures – like chewing more sugar-free gum – could deliver, by avoiding the need for urgent treatments and making the need for check-ups less frequent. 

Introducing supervised toothbrushing programmes for children, expanding water fluoridation schemes, and encouraging the public to chew sugar-free gum could together save the NHS over £50 million per year, and save NHS dental patients £95.9m.

British Dental Association Chair Eddie Crouch said:

“Cost of living and access crises are creating a perfect storm. Millions are thinking twice about needed care if they’re lucky enough to find an appointment, while others are looking abroad.

“Every day that passes our patients are making choices that put their oral health at risk. The government cannot remain asleep at the wheel.”

Michael Dodds, BDS PhD, Senior Principal Scientist with the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme said:

“It is crucial that any forward plan for dentistry considers preventive measures, such as promoting sugar-free gum, to enhance peoples’ oral health and ease pressures on our dental services.




“The Oral Health Index’s worrying findings show us that people risk missing out on much-needed dental treatment, due to pressures on services and the rising cost of living. Maintaining good oral health should not be a luxury – it is an essential part of our overall well-being. It helps people to boost their self-confidence, and enables them to carry out day-to-day activities like eating and speaking without discomfort or pain.

“The Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme is committed to continuing working with the dental community, to support education around healthy, affordable oral health routines.” 


Notes for editors

  • In July 2023, MPs from the Health and Social Care Committee issued a cross-party report urging the Government to reform the current dental contract, to move away from the ‘drill and fill’ culture and instead incentivise professionals to push preventive oral care.


About the Wrigley Oral Health Programme:

  • The Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme partners with dental professionals worldwide, helping them improve their patients’ oral health through one additional simple and enjoyable step in their daily routine: chewing sugar-free gum after eating and drinking on-the-go.
  • We support independent clinical research into preventive dentistry; funding for local dental associations and governments; continuous professional development programs; and the development of education materials for patients.
  • The Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme is proud to work with dental professionals to promote the role of at-home oral health tools that play an important role in preventative oral healthcare. Measures like brushing twice a day and flossing are key, whilst tools like sugar-free gum can play a vital part in protecting people’s oral health when they’re on the go. 

Oral Health Index Methodology:

  • The Oral Health Index research was conducted by Censuswide, with a total sample size of 6,001 nationally representative adults (aged 16+) across the UK. Fieldwork was conducted between 28th July and 1st August 2022. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.  
  • For further information on the Oral Health Index findings, or to speak to a spokesperson, please contact Yvette Evans at or 07583604920. 


Economics report Methodology:

  • 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 population. 
  • 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:
  1. Gathered together the published evidence on these preventative interventions.
  2. Identified the reduction in oral health problems (e.g. tooth decay) that is estimated to result from each intervention.

  3. Estimated the dental treatments (e.g. tooth extractions) that could be avoided as a result.
  4. 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.


*Strongly agree and somewhat agree combined


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