Given the brush off: Nearly 3 in 10 British Millennials put off visiting the dentist over the past year

September 24, 2021

COVID-19 forced Brits to take the health of their teeth into their own hands as, according to Mintel research, almost three in 10 (28%) Millennials (those aged 25 to 40) and nearly a quarter (22%) of all Brits have put off visiting the dentist in the last 12 months**. The pandemic has significantly impacted appointment availability too as 36% of Millennials aged 25-40 have had trouble getting access to a dentist, compared to an average of 30% of all Brits.

A worrying 22% of 16-24s said they felt less motivated to take care of their teeth/oral health, compared with 12% of Brits. Overall, almost a quarter (22%) of Brits admit to worrying about their oral health.

The pandemic exacerbated the value decline of the oral hygiene market in 2020 as sales of oral care*** fell 4% in 2020, declining to £980 million from just over £1 billion. By contrast, after years of value decline, sales of mouthwash grew an impressive 9%, up from £160 million in 2019 to £175 million in 2020. Highlighting how the pandemic is shining a spotlight on bad breath, 42% of adults agree that wearing a mask makes you more aware of how fresh your breath is.

Emilia Greenslade, Research Analyst at Mintel, said:

“For many, fear of catching COVID-19 made a visit to the dentist even less appealing than usual, forcing consumers to look for ways to take their oral health into their own hands at home. Lower general motivation and increased cost concerns are likely to have put off younger Brits, in particular, from visiting their dentists, as well as taking the focus off their appearance, with 13% of 16-24s saying they cared less about the appearance of their teeth over the last 12 months.

“However, hygiene concerns resulting from the pandemic drove an interest in mouthwash due to its antibacterial properties, as well as fresh breath concerns linked to extended mask wearing, also known as ‘mask mouth’.

“As consumers adapt to limited access to dental professionals during the pandemic, self-treatment trends will grow, presenting opportunities for brands to step up with expert advice via virtual consultations, as well as educating consumers on bristle type and toothbrush replacement frequency.”

Lockdowns drive use of teeth-whitening kits amongst 16-24s

Usage of teeth whitening strips/kits rose from 7% of 16-24s in 2020 to 11% in 2021. However, overall consumer usage of whitening strips/kits remains low at just 5%. Seeking dental expertise, one in five (20%) Brits are interested in having teeth whitening done by a professional.

Emilia Greenslade, Research Analyst at Mintel, said:

“With social distancing restrictions easing, our research shows that consumers will look to professionals for teeth whitening. However, there is a lot of opportunity for oral care brands to engage in the teeth whitening space by way of top-up products for the time between treatments, complementary products to purchase through whitening services, or instant teeth-whitening pens designed specifically for video calls, for example.”

Notes to editors:

* Based on oral care users aged 16+ who have used oral care products in the last 3 months. 96% of all Brits are oral care users.

** 12 months to April 2021.

*** Including toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash/rinse, denture products and dental accessories/ancillaries.

Research for the Oral Care UK report was carried out among 2,000 internet users aged 16+ in April 2021.

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