One in five Brits only visits the dentist when they have problems with their teeth 

October 11, 2017

While many know the drill when it comes to the importance of regular dental visits, Mintel’s Oral Care UK 2017 Report finds that almost one in five (18%) Brits only visits the dentist when they think they have a problem with their teeth. And it is the nation’s men who are the most likely to shy away from the dentist’s chair, as some 21% of men admit to only visiting the dentist when a problem arises, compared to just 15% of women.

As well as adopting a laissez faire approach to dentistry, Mintel research reveals a number of Brits are doing it for themselves, with one in 10 (10%) consumers having treated oral care pain at home, rising to 18% of 20-24 year olds. What is more, it seems the DIY approach may be expanding to cosmetic dentistry, as 6% of Brits say they have treated a cosmetic oral care issue (such as whitening teeth) at home.

While 65% of Brits say that dental problems can have an impact on overall physical health, three in 10 (29%) admit they have not visited the dentist in the last six months*.

Hera Crossan, Research Analyst at Mintel, says:

“Many Brits are failing to visit the dentist every six months as recommended by the NHS, and in some cases people are even choosing to treat issues at home instead of seeking professional advice. Consumers are afraid both of the cost and time associated with visiting the dentist – the pain of the treatment can hit them in the wallet as much as in the mouth.”

Overall, Mintel research shows that total sales of oral care products have remained virtually static since 2016, with the market expected to reach £1.08 billion in 2017. While toothbrush/toothpaste sales increased 2.5% between 2015 and 2016, to reach £767 million, mouthwash sales declined 1.2% to £188 million during this time. Meanwhile, dental accessories/denture products rose 2.2% to reach £125 million in 2017.

What’s more, it seems that use of mouthwash has gone down the sink. While as many as 71% of Brits used mouthwash in 2014, in 2017 usage has slipped to just over half (56%). However, it seems that usage of electric toothbrushes has buffed up. Almost half (48%) of Brits use an electric toothbrush, up from 44% in 2016. By contrast, manual toothbrush usage remains consistent at 70%.

When it comes to looking at the root of the problem, it seems that UK consumers have differing views on tooth brushing habits. While 63% of Brits brush their teeth twice a day, 23% only brush their teeth once a day and one in 10 (11%) conscientious cleaners brush more than twice a day.

“Despite professional guidance on how frequently to brush teeth, floss or use mouthwash, a sizeable proportion of adults are not following them, which could result in long-term damage to their oral health. This indicates that brands and dental care professionals could benefit from working together to give confused consumers a more coherent message about desired frequency.” Hera adds.

A significant 40% of all Brits believe white teeth equals healthy teeth, peaking at more than half (54%) of 16-24 year olds. By region, half (50%) of all Londoners see white teeth as a sign of good dental health, compared to just 36% of those living in the South West/Wales.

And it seems the nation’s quest for a pearly white smile remains high priority. Over two in five (46%) Brits have tried regular whitening toothpaste and would try it again, 20% have tried regular whitening mouthwash and would try it again. While use and interest in home whitening products remains high, 50% of Brits believe teeth whitening products should only be conducted by a dental care professional.

“Although younger adults are better acquainted with the whitening trend, their desire for whiter teeth could be detrimental to their overall oral health if they seek out lower-cost alternatives. Indeed, there does remain a concern that a focus on whitening could result in some consumers seeking out more extreme – and potentially harmful – solutions online, particularly if they are looking to cut costs on professional services or specialist whitening products.” Hera concludes.

*Six months to May 2017

Press review copies of the Oral Care UK 2017 Report and interviews with Hera Crossan, Research Analyst at Mintel, are available on request from the press office.

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