The 2009 Adult Dental Health Survey found the proportion of adults in England with visible decay has fallen by a fifth since the last survey in 1998.

The change in Northern Ireland was found to be similar, declining by almost a quarter, however, there has been a small increase in Wales of two percent – Scotland did not take part in the survey.

The survey also showed the proportion of adults who had no natural teeth has also fallen in the last 30 years, by almost a quarter in England and by more than a third in Northern Ireland and Wales.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, was pleased by the results and said they show that people, now more than ever, care about their oral health.

Dr Carter said: “These latest figures only go to confirm the progress which has been made in regards to the improving standards of oral health here in the UK. We have suspected this to be true for a while now and it is certainly pleasing to finally see this indeed to be the case.

“It is encouraging to see, that in most cases, the number of adults who are edentate has dramatically fallen, the decay rate is lower and the number of natural teeth has risen.

“Over the last few years, there has been a real demand for and interest in dentistry, from the media, the trade and profession, financial investors and, most importantly of all, the patients and public themselves.

“This is not a surprise of course. There has been a near constant influx of new ideas, improved techniques and more advanced materials in recent times and now even the definition of what actually constitutes dentistry appears to be evolving at pace.”

The survey – which takes place every ten years – is a ‘snapshot’ of dental health across England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Around 6,500 adults across the three nations had their teeth examined as part of the survey.

The research was carried out by a consortium led by the Office for National Statistics and set out to investigate attitudes to dental hygiene and treatment and to find out how healthy the public’s teeth really are.

Despite much of the good news, there were still one or two areas for concern however.

Dr Carter added: “We now know that less than two–thirds of us go to the dentists regularly. Despite this figure improving in all three countries from the first survey in 1968, we still need this to improve.

“Regular dental visits are vital in order to maintain good levels of oral health. The 27 percent who claimed to only visit their dentist when they experienced a problem with their mouths could have prevented potentially problematic treatments and unnecessary financial expense by attending regular dental check–ups.”

The survey also presented another hurdle that still faces dentistry.

Nearly one in five women – and one in ten men – still suffer ‘extreme dental anxiety’ before they even sit in the dentist’s chair.

The results also reveal that a greater percentage of younger adults experience extreme dental anxiety, than older adults.

“It is certainly no surprise that a number a people have confessed to show some levels of dental anxiety. Being “afraid of the dentist” may mean different things to different people.

“Dental techniques have improved so much over the last few years, and modern dental treatment can now be completely painless. Despite this, most people still feel a little nervous at the thought of going to the dentist. If you have not been to see a dentist for some time, you will probably find that things have improved a lot since your last visit.

The general attitude is likely to be more relaxed, the dental techniques and safety procedures will be much better, and the equipment will be more up to date.

“With this in mind, it is important not to ignore any warning signs or concerns you have about your teeth – make an appointment to visit your dentist as soon as possible when signs of gum disease such as loose teeth or regular infections are present. It’s important that people learn to overcome their fears. A visit to the dentist could save their life. Fear of the dentist can have tragic consequences for individuals, but their experience is unnecessary.

“Keeping our teeth healthy and cleaning twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cutting down on how often y we have sugary foods and drinks can help us smile with confidence, but more importantly has overall health benefits. The links between oral health problems such as gum disease and conditions like heart disease, strokes, diabetes and, in the case of pregnant women, low birth weight babies, for instance, has all been well documented and is backed by robust scientific evidence,” Dr Carter said.

Those who have any worries or concerns about their oral health can call the National Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188. The helpline is a free and impartial advice line staffed by fully–qualified dental health professionals which has taken more than 250,000 calls since its formation a little over ten years ago.


Editor’s Notes

You can download the full survey from NHS Information at

For further information please contact the Foundation’s Press Office on 01788 539 792 or email [email protected], alternatively visit the website at

Please visit the Foundation’s Twitter accounts: dentalhealthorg, mouthcancerorg and smilemonth and add our Facebook fan–page: ‘British Dental Health Foundation’.

The British Dental Health Foundation is the UK’s leading oral health charity, with a 40–year track record of providing public information and influencing government policy. It maintains a free consumer advice service, an impartial and objective product accreditation scheme, publishes and distributes a wide range of literature for the profession and consumers, and runs National Smile Month each May, to promote greater awareness of the benefits of better oral health.

A series of 53 ‘Tell Me About…’ leaflets covering topics such as ‘gum disease’, ‘smoking and oral health’ and ‘tooth whitening’ are also available by contacting the Foundation.