News & Events

Dr Ben Atkins: Will COVID-19 widen the oral health gap?

28 July 2020

President of the Oral Health Foundation and Wrigley’s Ambassador Dr Ben Atkins considers the need to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t widen the current oral health gap in his recent exclusive for Density Online.

With dental practises beginning to re-open after several months of closure alongside changes in our routines and eating habits during lockdown, Dr Atkins writes that “having a conversation about oral health is now more important than ever” with this difficult period we face as a nation having emphasised the importance of a smile:

“A smile shows others – from the postman and our neighbours to friends and family – that we are here for each other. When we cannot hug or shake hands, a smile becomes our main tool to connect with others.”

Pointing to the regional variation in oral health outcomes, underlined by socio-economic factors, he emphasises the need to ensure that the oral health of those from the most deprived backgrounds is not exacerbated further by the current crisis.

Referencing a recent Oral Health Foundation survey which found that those from lower-income households were less likely to use dental floss, mouthwash or sugarfree gum, or be aware of their clinical benefits, he identities levelling up patient education as a crucial step in addressing this oral health gap. Dr Atkins concludes:

Ensuring we all know how to best keep our mouths healthy is a good first step in closing the oral health gap. This year’s National Smile Month made some great progress in reaching out to those groups where oral disease is far too common. Activities like the Great British Brushathon and oral health home schooling helped to improve dental education amongst disadvantaged communities. But there is still much to do!

Maintaining a healthy smile can be really simple, and it plays a key role in supporting an individual’s broader physical and mental wellbeing. But we know that for many this isn’t the case. Where you were born or how much your family earns should not determine your risk of dental disease. It’s essential that we do more to support those from the most vulnerable and deprived communities. Everyone’s lives have changed to some degree due to the current pandemic. But we must ensure that oral health does not take a back seat – we need to level up the country’s oral health.”

Read the full piece from Dr Atkins here.

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British Dental Conference & Dentistry Show ‘Back to Practice’ webinar series on the role of sugarfree gum in minimum intervention oral healthcare

21 July 2020

The Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme are proud to sponsor the next instalment of the British Dental Conference & Dentistry Show’s ‘Back to Practice’ webinar series. Led by Professor Avi Banerjee of Kings’ College London, this free two-part series will consider the role, efficacy and impact of sugarfree gum in minimum intervention oral healthcare. Each session is verifiable CPD accredited.

To register for both sessions please click here.

Session 1: Chew on this! Does chewing sugarfree gum help prevent caries?

Taking place at 7:00 pm on Tuesday 21st July, the first webinar in this series will discuss the concept and implementation of minimum intervention oral healthcare and the role of sugarfree gum. Speakers will consider the concept of minimum intervention oral healthcare delivery and sugarfree gum in preventative regimes. Speakers will systematically review and synthesise the findings of published studies exploring the oral health impact of chewing sugarfree gum and the health benefits of salivary stimulation. The session will frame and look forward to session two’s discussion on behaviour change and implementing sugarfree gum within preventative strategies.

Speakers include:

  • Professor Avijit Banerjee BDS MSc PhD (Lond) LDS FDS (Rest Dent) FDSRCS (Eng) FHEA, Professor of Cariology & Operative Dentistry, King’s College London
  • Dr. Michael Dodds, BDS, PhD, Oral Health Lead Scientist, Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme
  • Professor J. Tim Newton BA PhD CPsychol AFBPS CSci FHEAm Newton, BA, PhD, Professor and Consultant in Psychology as Applied to Dentistry, King’s College London

Session 2: Chewing it over! Implementation of sugarfree gum in caries prevention regimes

Taking place at 7:00 pm on Tuesday 4th August, session two will then consider how to best communicate with patients to achieve behaviour change, as well as the implementation of oral health strategies in general practice. Speakers will discuss the role of sugarfree gum in caries prevention regimes, evaluating the materials and tools needed by dental professionals to support healthy mouths. With dental surgeries beginning to reopen, speakers will also assess practical resources to promote healthy mouths while working remotely.

Speakers include:

  • Professor Avijit Banerjee BDS MSc PhD (Lond) LDS FDS (Rest Dent) FDSRCS (Eng) FHEA, Professor of Cariology & Operative Dentistry, King’s College London
  • Professor Elizabeth Kay, MBE BDS MPH FDSRCPS FDSRCSE FFGDP PhD, Emeritus Professor and Editor of Evidence Based Dentistry, Peninsula Dental School 
  • Professor J. Tim Newton BA PhD CPsychol AFBPS CSci FHEAm Newton, BA, PhD, Professor and Consultant in Psychology as Applied to Dentistry, King’s College London
  • Dr Ben Atkins BDS, General Dental Practitioner 
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New research: chewing sugarfree gum can reduce dental caries by up to 28%

12 May 2020

A landmark systematic review has found that chewing sugarfree gum could significantly reduce the incidence of dental caries, comparing it favourably to other preventive interventions such as oral health education and supervised tooth brushing alone.

Conducted by world-leading researchers at King’s College London’s Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences, with support from the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme, the review is the most robust to date, examining over 360 studies from the last 50 years.

Published in the Journal of Dental Research: Clinical & Translational Research, the research examines the levels of dental caries in both adults and children who chew sugarfree gum, compared to those who do not or who use alternatives such as lozenges, candies and rinses.

The study found that people who regularly chewed sugarfree gum developed 28% less dental caries than those who did not. This compared favourably to other oral health measures such as fluoride toothpaste and fluoride supplements, which reported 24% less dental caries.

Despite progress being made in recent years, dental caries remains a serious public health concern in the UK. Public Health England estimates that £50.5 million was spent on tooth extractions for those under the age of 19 between 2015 and 2016, with the majority relating to tooth decay.[i] Left untreated, dental caries can severely impact peoples’ quality of life by causing difficulty eating and drinking, interrupted sleeping, toothache, irritability and may cause them to avoid smiling because of the appearance of their teeth.[ii]

The review’s findings support the growing body of clinical evidence which shows the important role chewing sugar-free gum can have in improving both oral and overall health. This is particularly important as modern eating habits change. Data presented in the Eat, Drink Think report conducted by Kantar TNS shows that 83% of respondents consume at least one snack between meals while 48% consume two snacks or more per day.[iii] This shift to a ‘grazing’ culture means current oral health routines must adapt to protect teeth when they are most prone to plaque acid attack and when brushing is not possible.

Professor Avijit Banerjee, Professor of Cariology and Operative Dentistry at King’s College London and study lead commented:

“Both the stimulation of saliva which can act as a natural barrier to protect teeth, and the mechanical plaque control that results from the act of chewing, can contribute to the prevention of dental caries. Sugarfree gum can also act as a carrier for antibacterial ingredients including xylitol and sorbitol. No recent conclusive evidence existed prior to this review that showed the relationship between slowing the development of caries and chewing sugarfree gum.”

Dr Mike Dodds, lead oral health scientist at the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme, said:

“This new King’s College London study reinforces the important role sugarfree gum can play in improving oral health for people around the world. As our lifestyles and eating behaviours have evolved over time it is important that we look beyond brushing alone to find additional ways to protect our teeth and mouth as part of a regularly exercised oral care routine.

“Now is not the time to be complacent. Research is continuing to show us the connections between oral and general health and wellbeing. This study is a timely reminder of the role sugar-free gum can play in helping improve dental health in both developed and developing countries.”

This independent research was supported by a grant from the Wrigley Oral Healthcare programme. To read the full study please visit the King’s College London website or find the citation at PubMed. For more information on the study and on the benefits of chewing sugarfree gum, please contact: 

[i] Public Health England - Guidance - Health matters: child dental health (2017). Available online from:

[ii] BaniHani A et al - The impact of dental caries and its treatment by conventional or biological approaches on the oral health-related quality of life of children and carers (2017). Available online from:

[iii] WOHP - Eat, Drink, Think: Modern eating habits and the impact of oral health in the UK (2017). Available online from:

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National Smile Month 2020

12 May 2020

The Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme is proud to again be supporting this year’s National Smile Month running from 18th May to 18th June 2020. We understand the importance of a good, healthy smile - they create a great first impression and allow us to connect with others confidently. It’s been proven that the condition of our teeth can make a big difference to how often we smile, so it is important to keep them as clean and healthy as possible!

That’s why we are committed to improving the oral health of the nation. For decades, we have provided education and resources about the things we can all do to keep our mouths healthy. Through this website, you can find learning materials, created in conjunction with the Oral Health Foundation, for children to help explain why our teeth are so important and how to look after them.  

As our snacking habits change, we know that our oral health routines must also adapt. We are working with organisations like the Oral Health Foundation to help patients improve their regular oral healthcare routine between brushing through one extra simple and enjoyable step: chewing sugarfree gum after eating and drinking. 

While we have made great strides in some areas, tooth decay continues to have a huge economic, social and societal impact. As we face such difficult times as a nation, and around the world, a smile is such an important way to communicate with those around you. The Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme remains committed to doing everything we can to promote good oral health care and keep the national smiling. 

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