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New findings: Survey of dental professionals reveals a significant impact on patients’ oral health since the beginning of the pandemic

19 March 2021

For World Oral Health Day 2021, the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme has published the results of our second annual dental professionals survey. The survey asked our website users about how COVID-19 has impacted the industry and the preventative measures they recommend to patients.

Key findings:

  • Over three-quarters of dental professionals have seen a significant impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the oral health of their patients
  • Nearly two-thirds don’t expect to see normal service resume for at least 6 months to a year
  • 71% are now recommending at-home oral health tools to protect patients’ oral health
  • Sugarfree gum was recommended by 71% of survey respondents as an at-home oral healthcare tool

The survey of 420 dental professionals subscribed to the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme website revealed that just over three quarters (76%) have seen a significant, or very significant, impact on patients’ oral health since the beginning of the pandemic. Three-quarters of those who have seen a significant or very significant impact on the oral health of their patients have noticed a decline in routine dental appointments during the pandemic.

Dental professionals continue to worry about the impact that continued lockdowns are having on their ability to see and treat patients. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) said they expect normal service to resume within either the next 6 months to a year, demonstrating the ongoing impact the pandemic is having on dentistry.

It is clear that preventative oral health tools have played an important role for dental professionals during the pandemic, with 71% of survey respondents saying they had shifted to recommending at-home oral health tools such as floss and mouthwash while their patients have been unable to access treatment or attend physical practices.

Dental professionals also recognised the important role that chewing sugarfree gum can play in helping to protect patients’ oral health and prevent caries when at home. The survey revealed that 71% of dental professionals recommend the use of sugarfree gum as an oral health tool for their patients. 78% of those who recommended sugarfree gum, did so because of the recognised benefits that chewing sugarfree gum can have on oral health. Additionally, 76% of respondents recognised the accessibility of sugarfree gum, and just over half (53%) praised the fact that it is inexpensive for patients to buy.

Eddie Crouch, Chair of the British Dental Association commented on the survey results: "The impact COVID has had on the nation's oral health will be felt for years to come. Even before COVID deep health inequalities and access problems were the norm, and now both have been set into overdrive. 'Business as usual' will not be returning any time soon, and policymakers, patients and practitioners all need to make the right choices if we're to avert an oral health crisis."

Dr Ben Atkins, President of the Oral Health Foundation said: “It is clear that the dental profession has faced an unprecedented challenge in the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first lockdown, dentists were unable to operate practically any services except urgent care and the subsequent COVID-19 guidance for the industry, whilst essential for dentists’ and patients’ safety, has meant that most practices are unable to see the volume of patients they’d like. This survey highlights the important role that at-home measures have played in protecting the oral health of the nation while people are unable to access regular dental care, and the role they will likely continue to play as we look ahead to hopefully exiting lockdown.” 

Thank you to our website users who kindly contributed their views to the survey. The findings will inform the activity of the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme over the next twelve months.

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