For anybody who needed to see a dentist during the Covid-19 pandemic, but couldn’t, the trip to the dentist became a very welcome one, once restrictions had been lifted. Well, maybe more of a relief; because let’s admit it – nobody really enjoys a trip to see the dentist.
National Smile Month encourages more of us to take good care of our teeth and go to the dentist for regular checkups. Between 16 May and 16 June, the Oral Health Foundation will be hoping to lower levels of dentist-hesitancy across the UK and raise awareness of the benefits of having good oral health and a healthy smile.
The key messages of the campaign are:
- Brush teeth for two minutes, last thing at night and one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Clean between your teeth every day.
- Cut down how much and how often you have sugary foods and drinks.
- Visit a dentist regularly.
For a number of reasons, it seems that people are not doing as much of the last item on that list. ONS data1 found that dental treatments fell in the UK by 69% to 12 million in total in 2020-21, compared to the previous year.
A recent study by Healthwatch2, has warned that even when people do get access to dental care on the NHS, three-fifths (61%) deem it too expensive and over a quarter (27%) said they either struggle to pay or avoid dental treatments altogether because they cannot afford the costs. It also indicates that the pandemic may also have affected people’s habits of seeing a dentist. Nearly a quarter (23%) feel they will now visit the dentist only when they need treatment, despite knowing regular dental check-ups are recommended.
Oral health statistics
- 39%: Almost two in five (39%) of adults that don’t go to the dentist regularly.
- 31%: Almost one in three (31%) of adults have tooth decay.
- 8,772: There are over 8,700 new cases of mouth cancer each year.
- 6million: Over the last year, around six million adults in the UK have had long-lasting pain (over two weeks) caused by toothache.
At Health Shield, we found that the number of dental claims made by our health cash plan members are up by 18.2% year on year, with the average value of a dental claim at nearly £50 per treatment. One of the reasons for this is that claims for urgent dental procedures have doubled, potentially as a result of people not being able to go to their regular check-ups over the past two years since the pandemic began and the financial pressures felt by people with the rising cost of living. The cost of dental care has also risen in the last year as dentists have passed on PPE costs to their patients, although Health Shield has absorbed these costs on behalf of its members.
If people are increasingly dodging the dentist this could have a knock-on effect that translates into not only increased dental abscesses but employee absences too. Good oral health has many benefits, not just for the mouth but for overall wellbeing too.
Taking good care of oral health goes far beyond keeping teeth and gums healthy. It also improves quality of life. In recent years, poor oral health, specifically gum disease, has been linked with a number of general health conditions which may be caused or made worse by poor oral health include:
- Heart disease.
- Giving birth to a premature or low-birth-weight baby.
- Respiratory (lung) disease.
- How can the health of my mouth affect my heart?
- People with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery (heart) disease than people without gum disease.
Many companies offer health cash plans to their employees which include dental care, and while they may still have to join waiting lists to see a dentist in the current climate, they still hold much value as claims for treatment have been on the rise. Health cash plans help to incentivise employees to focus on their health by removing cost as a barrier to NHS or private dental treatment, ensuring that any niggles don’t turn to nightmares.
With inflation and the rising cost of living, health cash plans are offering even more value as employees feel the financial pinch in the current environment – especially those on lower incomes.
Health Shield’s key focus is to deliver value for not only its members, but also their family. The volume of claims for members’ dependents and children has increased by nearly 8%. Aroundone in five claims were for dependents last year and we paid over £960k in dental claims for members’ partners and dependent children last year. Helping to create healthier, happier smiles all around.