UK workforce heading towards a dental care crisis

by | May 30, 2023

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In April 2023, NHS dental charges in England jumped by a historic 8.5%, outstripping the growth in employees’ average pay (including bonuses) by 2.6 percentage points.

Current dentistry costs are leaving one quarter of patients delaying or avoiding NHS treatment, with the British Dental Association warning that today’s prices for dental care are now shaping the clinical choices made by millions of patients.[3]

Unum Dental’s most recent claims data showed an 11% increase in the number of claims in 2022 compared with the previous year, but the value of those claims increased by 37% to just over £24 million. That equates to more than £113 per claim on average, up from just under £92 in 2021, or an increase per claim of 23%. The rising cost of dental treatment is evident — growth in the cost of claims outstripped growth in volume. 

This latest price increase for what is essential healthcare spending will be another blow to already stretched households. Recent research commissioned by Unum UK, revealed that one of the biggest concerns for 60% of respondents was managing financially through the cost-of-living crisis.  Indeed 31% of employees believe that these financial pressures will negatively impact their workplace productivity.[4]


With such a high proportion of people concerned about rising costs, it’s perhaps unsurprising that one in eight of Britons say they currently have no confidence in their ability to afford even routine NHS dental care.[5] One in ten also expect to be forced to cut down on appointments due to the expense.[6]

Clearly, those with Dental Insurance are making the most of their benefits to help mitigate the rising prices of routine, emergency or major dental treatment for them and their families.

John Hyde, Chief Marketing Officer at Unum UK commented: “The message of National Smile Month is to go back to basics when it comes to oral hygiene, promoting brushing twice a day as a preventative measure. However, this doesn’t address those struggling to afford treatment and currently suffering with dental concerns, which can cause pain and infection, leading to difficulties with eating, sleeping, socialising and wellbeing. 


“The provision of dental services isn’t just necessary for oral health, but it is vital for the prevention, detection, and treatment of serious diseases such as mouth cancers and type 2 diabetes.[7] Poor oral hygiene can even contribute to heart disease.[8] Even leaving aside the discomfort people live with suffering from dental problems they cannot afford to get fixed, the wider health ramifications make being able to afford dental treatment vital for everyone.

“Following the recent increases to NHS dentistry costs, employee Dental policies can offer a lifeline for those already struggling in the cost-of-living crisis. Employers have an opportunity here to help ensure employees and their loved ones have access to timely treatment to help maintain good oral health.”

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