Survey Shows 45 million Brits at Greater Risk of Tooth Decay

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New survey by the Oral Health Foundation and Colgate-Palmolive shows 45 million Brits at increased risk of tooth decay

More than 45 million British adults are at an increased risk of tooth decay, according to a new report. Figures collected by the Oral Health Foundation and Colgate-Palmolive show that 84% of all adults in the UK fall into groups that put them at higher risk of the disease [1].

The research found that one-in-five Brits have ‘moderate-to-high’ sugar diets, 21% have not visited a dentist in the last two years, and 19% do not brush their teeth twice a day – all of which increases their chances of developing tooth decay, leading to expensive fillings, root canal treatment or tooth extraction.

The latest data from NHS Digital shows there are 9.7 million band two treatments in England a year. These include fillings, root canal work and extractions [2].

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation says tooth decay can have a devastating effect on a person’s quality of life and more must be done to reduce the number of people affected by the disease.

He explains: “Tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease in the UK, yet it is entirely preventable. Anybody can suffer from tooth decay but there are a few things that can increase the risk. Tooth decay is caused by poor oral hygiene, as well as eating or drinking too much sugar too often. It is also linked with not having regular dental check-ups.

“Medications containing sugar or that cause dry mouth can also put a person at greater risk. We also know that diabetics and orthodontic patients are more likely to suffer from tooth decay. Together these makes up a significant proportion of the population. In its early stages, tooth decay can cause mild pain, but in extreme cases it can have a debilitating impact on a person’s life.

“For a better quality of life, it is critical to know how identify tooth decay in the early stages or prevent it from happening at all. Toothache and tooth sensitivity to sweet things are two of the most likely signs of tooth decay. Dark spots on the surfaces of the teeth and an unpleasant taste in the mouth are further signs to look out for.”

Dr Carter continues: “If anybody falls into one of the high-risk groups, or notices the early signs of tooth decay, they should book an appointment with their dental team for an assessment. They will help reduce the risk and offer a range of different options for preventing and treating tooth decay. One of which may be prescribing a high fluoride toothpaste.”

In the UK, around eight-in-ten adults have one or more teeth with decay, that are filled or have been pulled out due to decay. It is also extremely common in children, with more than one-in-five showing the signs [3].

To help identify the risk of tooth decay and to spot the early warning signs, the charity has partnered with Colgate-Palmolive to launch a new educational campaign, The Truth About Tooth Decay, which also provides tooth decay prevention advice.

Scientific Affairs Project Manager at Colgate, Emanuele Cotroneo, highlights the importance of preventing tooth decay. She says: “The best way to prevent tooth decay is by brushing the teeth thoroughly last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with a 1450ppm fluoride toothpaste. This should take around two minutes.

“When brushing, make sure the inner, outer and biting surfaces of the teeth are brushed carefully, and remember to brush along the gumline. Using interdental brushes, dental floss or tape, also helps remove plaque and food from between the teeth. These are areas an ordinary toothbrush can't reach. Daily use of a fluoride mouthwash between brushing can also help.”

The Truth About Tooth Decay can be found at .

Anybody looking for help or support with their oral health can contact the charity’s Dental Helpline for free advice. Call 01788 539780 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


1. Oral Health Foundation and Colgate-Palmolive (2020) 'Dental Caries Awareness Survey', UK, Broadcast Revolution, Sample 2,008.

2. NHS Digital (2020) ‘NHS Dental Statistics’, online at, accessed on January 2020.

3. Office for National Statistics (2009) ‘Adult Dental Health Survey’, online at