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Press Release: Consumers Remain Nervous Of Dental Surgeries Re: Covid 19

A year after the first lockdown, patients remain very nervous about visiting dental practices. There's a lot of resistance towards higher fees to cover PPE costs. Many are thinking of going from private to NHS, and consumers are overwhelmingly positive towards health preventative oral health products.

This is the second UK wide consumer study to be conducted by Dr Heff’s in just under a year. Last May, as dental practices were closed, we interviewed over 500 consumers to understand their fears and future plans.  We have repeated that study now (March 2021).

Here are the headlines:

While the number of people who said they would attend a dentist appointment next week if they had one booked has increased from 38% last May to 68% today, still 18% of all consumers, and 22% of those aged 55 and above, say they wouldn’t. 

The number of people who said they would delay a routine appointment they had got booked for next week due to concerns associated with coronavirus has dropped from 62% last May to 41% today.  But 41% of people delaying routine appointments still equates to over 20 million UK adults.

This is further backed up by 45% of UK adults saying they will wait several months before going to a dentist due to concerns with coronavirus transmitted in the practice/surgery/waiting room, a decline from 63% last May but nevertheless, it means almost 1-in-2 UK adults are missing out on vital routine checks.

The longer term worry is that 34% of UK adults say they will visit a dentist less often after lockdown is over. This has increased slightly in the last 11 months. Consumers remain nervous about cv19.  

Three quarters of UK adults either ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ with the statement that ‘dentists will have to work hard to reassure patients their dental practices are safe and hygienic’.

What we have also learned from the study is that as a nation we continue to snack our way through the lockdown (53% of us are consuming more chocolate, sweets, fizzy drinks and alcohol) – but also 1-in-4 of us (27%) are brushing our teeth less often during lockdown. This has remain unchanged since the last survey was conducted, in May 2020.

Another concern for the dental industry is that over half of consumers (55%) say they will visit dentists less if the dental fees are increased to cover the costs of PPE. This has risen slightly since last May when the survey was last conducted. A further 52% will delay or defer planned dental treatments if dental fees increase to cover the costs of PPE. 

The nation remains divided on the issue of PPE. A third (32%) of UK adults think it is acceptable for dental practices to increase their fees to patients by between £10-£30 to cover the costs of PPE, but a far greater percentage, 46%, do not think it is acceptable.

In a worrying development for private dentists in the UK, 45% of all UK adults say they are now using, or considering using, NHS dentists rather than private practice dentists.

The UK dental profession can take heart, however, in the news that 83% of UK adults say they take oral health seriously. 63% claim to know that tooth decay is the most common disease in the world and 77% say they know the condition is almost entirely preventable. 72% know oral health is directly associated or linked to ones’ overall health. 

However, 73% of parents with children living in the house say they are worried about the oral health of their kids.  

62% of all adults, and 70% of younger adults (those aged 18-34) feel that oral health is not discussed enough in the media and 56% of adults (67% of 18-34 year olds) feel UK retailers don’t sell enough oral health products in their stores. 

What we are seeing is a significant proportion of the UK population – 76% - saying they are interested to learn how to improve their own dental health to prevent dental decay. is has increased marginally (by 1%) in a year, as the nation becomes very focused on prevention activities in their everyday lives eg handwashing, sanitising etc.  

We were delighted to hear that 79% of UK adults would be interested in a healthy mint which reverses tooth decay or tooth erosion and 65% of all adults feel that such a product being invented by dentists will mean it works.  41% would be willing to buy such a product on subscription.

A slight worry is the fact that over 50% of younger consumers are more interested in the cosmetic appearance of their teeth than maintaining check-ups to spot tooth decay/erosion.

The research was conducted by Dr Heff’s Products Limited on the 17th March 2021, when 551 UK nationally representative consumers were interviewed online Dr Heff’s Remarkable Mints were invented by two leading UK dentists, Mike Heffernan and Toby Edwards-Lunn.  

Commenting on the research findings, Mike Heffernan says "I’m delighted that we have been able to conduct this study – the second in a year – and make the results available to everyone involved in the dentistry and health sectors. On the one hand, I’m delighted to see that UK consumers are keen to learn about preventative oral health and we agree that the issue should have far greater media coverage. What I’m saddened to learn is that so many people in the UK are continuing to avoid dental practices after so much work, and money, has been invested in them to make them safe. My primary concern is that many people wont be getting the treatment – and check-ups – to help maintain their vital oral health. We know that ones oral health is directly linked to ones’ overall health and I fear that fewer people seeing their dentist will lead to an increase in serious illnesses not being diagnosed early enough."

On the issue of consumers switching from private to NHS dentists, Toby Edwards-Lunn suggests, "This is worrying times for many working in the dental sector, with the pandemic leading to financial concerns for some consumers meaning they need to economise."   


Download the consumer research

For more information, please contact:

Tom Fender – [email protected] 07802 336333

Mike Heffernan – [email protected] 07900 888317

Toby Edwards-Lunn [email protected] 07974 447539

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