Patients cut back on dental care

The UK’s current economic problems are proving bad news for the nation’s teeth as many people are looking for ways to save money. The British Dental Health Foundation is warning that any cut-backs to spending on oral health is a false economy and will cost more in the long run – physically and financially.

The warnings have been prompted by a new survey commissioned by the Foundation, which suggests that over a third of adults (36%) are more likely to delay any dental treatment needed due to cost and over a quarter say they are visiting their dentist less often as a result of the current economic problems. Approaching one in five (17%) people say they are spending less on their oral care and over a quarter (27%) are buying cheaper oral care products including toothpaste, mouthwash and toothbrushes.

The Foundation is particularly concerned that one in four people believe visiting the dentist is becoming less of a priority. Government data shows that the number of people with tooth decay is over 40% lower among people who visit their dentist at least once a year. Regular visits can also help the crucial early diagnosis of life threatening diseases such as mouth cancer.

Not surprisingly, people on lower incomes are most at risk of deteriorating oral health in the current economic climate. One in four people (24%) on lower incomes are likely to refuse dental treatment and approaching four out of every 10 people are more likely to delay treatment.

Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, is hoping to remind anyone thinking of over-looking their oral health, to think again: ‘Our findings show that oral health is not recession-proof and that too many people are willing to gamble with their oral health. Unfortunately, they are running the risk of storing up a wide range of health problems and even bigger costs in the future. Many people are entitled to free dental treatment on the NHS and it’s always worth checking, especially if your circumstances change.

‘A regular oral health routine is the only way to avoid problems with teeth and gums. This includes maintaining regular visits to the dentist. Oral health can quickly deteriorate and regular check-ups with a dentist are essential.

‘The cost of poor oral health is not just cosmetic. Fillings, having teeth removed and other repair work are all considerably more expensive than the price of a check-up. The pain of toothache can be excruciating and is something to be avoided at any cost.

‘Continuing to use good quality oral health products is also really important. We advise anyone thinking of choosing different products to look out for the British Dental Health Foundation’s approved symbol, which shows the product has been independently checked by an expert panel, and the marketing claims being made for the product have been independently verified by our panel of academic experts.’

The findings have been published as part of National Smile Month, which runs from 20 May to 20 June and is the UK’s biggest annual reminder to look after their oral health. The campaign encourages everyone to brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cut down on how often they have sugary foods and drinks and to visit their dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.

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