Preventative care is inconsistent across the UK, study finds
There are “clear discrepancies” in the understanding of preventative care and it is not being offered consistently to patients across the UK, according to research undertaken by healthcare company Haleon and the College of General Dentistry (CGDent).
The ‘Dental Health Barometer’ study, which included a survey of 2,000 consumers and 505 dental health professionals, found that:
- Just one third (34 per cent) of oral health professionals always offer preventative care advice to patients.
- One in four (25 per cent) patients weren’t given preventative advice during their last dental appointment.
- More than half (59 per cent) of oral health professionals are more likely to offer preventative advice for private patients than NHS patients,
- More than a third (37 per cent) of NHS oral health professionals cited time constraints as the top reason for not being able to routinely offer preventative care advice, as opposed to just 15 per cent of private professionals.
- Oral health professionals differed on the preventative advice they would recommend to patients.
Preventative care is defined as proactive dental care and advice that helps a patient to take action to maintain a healthy mouth, protecting against tooth decay, gum disease and more serious issues such as tooth loss and negative impacts on general health.
Yet, the survey of UK consumers and dental health professionals reveals that preventative oral care advice is not being offered consistently to patients. That’s despite a high incidence of tooth decay – with 70,000 people treated in UK emergency departments for the disease last year alone. Just one third (34 per cent) of oral health professionals said they always offer preventative care advice to patients, while one in four (25 per cent) patients said they weren’t given preventative advice during their last dental appointment.
More than half (59 per cent) of oral health professionals said that they are more likely to offer preventative advice for private patients than NHS patients, and over a third (37 per cent) of NHS oral health professionals cited time constraints as the top reason for not being able to routinely offer preventative care advice, as opposed to just 15 per cent of private oral health professionals.
Additionally, oral health professionals differed on the preventative advice they would recommend to patients. While half (50 per cent) said advice on additional oral hygiene products and brushing techniques were key, only 2 in 5 (41 per cent) pointed to advice on diet as preventative care and just over a third (34 per cent) would consider advice on caring for gums to be preventative advice.
Bas Vorsteveld, General Manager of Haleon in the UK and Ireland, said: “We know that oral health professionals are facing huge pressures, and we want to help support them to be able to provide better preventative advice – not just during routine dental appointments, but outside of appointments too.
“Our findings revealed preventative care advice is not always offered consistently, despite patients and dentists understanding its importance. We remain committed to addressing these issues and will look to develop new initiatives to support dental professionals.
“These will form alongside our existing initiatives which include providing educational materials to healthcare professionals, continuing to innovate and provide therapeutic oral care for patient issues at home and through campaigns like Shine Bright which raises awareness in children of the prevention of oral health conditions.”
The study revealed a lack of understanding across consumers and oral health professionals over whether preventative care is routinely available on the NHS. Almost half (48 per cent) of consumers said preventative oral healthcare advice is offered on the NHS, and more than a third (34 per cent) were unsure. Oral health professionals were more aware, with 74 per cent saying preventative oral healthcare advice is offered on the NHS. Once again, younger dentists are more aware that preventative care advice should be routinely available on the NHS.
The study found patients have a strong level of trust in advice given by their dentist. Where it is offered, 9 in 10 (88 per cent) found the advice helpful. The study found that NHS patients, younger people and men were less likely to proactive ask for preventative care advice.
Dr Abhi Pal, President at the College of General Dentistry said: “We are committed to quality and standards of excellence in general practice dentistry – helping professionals to do the best for their patients. The research revealed some fascinating insights into the role that preventative care plays in the UK. It’s quite properly a mainstay of both private and NHS appointments, and we support any initiative that promotes prevention.”