Chewing gum, fluoride in our water supply and supervising children brushing their teeth key to cutting decay

Sugar-free gum, fluoridation and supervising children when they brush their teeth would dramatically cut decay, says Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care

Chewing sugar-free gum can prevent the need for fillings
Chewing sugar-free gum can prevent the need for fillings

Three preventative interventions could reduce unnecessary trips to the dentist, saving patients almost £100 million annually and NHS dentistry £51m each year, while freeing up capacity to deliver up to 8.3 million more check-ups, according to a new report.

The report, commissioned by the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme and undertaken by Frontier Economics, argues that if most people chewed sugar-free chewing gum three times a day, there could be an estimated 109,430 fewer tooth extractions carried out on the NHS every year.

Additionally, there would be up to 182,383 fewer fillings and 36,477 fewer root canals. The associated savings to NHS dental services could reach over £7.9m.

Dr Mike Dodds from the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program said: "We know that dental services are under real strain right now. So, the role of preventative policies, that can help reduce demand on services, is more important than ever.”

In addition, rolling out fluoridation – NI Water doesn't add fluoride to the public drinking water supply – would also reduce tooth decay.

Dr Nigel Carter from the Oral Health Foundation said water fluoridation would "reach all areas of society".

"The oral health benefits of chewing sugar-free gum three times per day could also prevent a substantial number of fillings a year, a fantastic result from a very simple habit," he added.

The third area that the programme analysed was the concept of supervised brushing, targeted at children aged between three and six living in the poorest 20 per cent of areas. This has the potential to save the NHS £8m a year, with 28,000 fewer tooth extractions, 28,000 fewer fillings, and 2,700 fewer root canal treatments per year.

In total, if all three oral health prevention policies were rolled out in England and Wales alone, it is calculated that combined savings to the NHS could reach £51m and there could be up to 1.43m fewer tooth extractions; 1.8m fewer fillings; and over 265,000 fewer root canal treatments every year.

Matthew Bell from Frontier Economics said: "Oral health is important for overall health, which can also translate into lower dental costs for individuals and for the NHS."