Oral health status in the UK

This webpage is intended for Dental Healthcare Professionals only

The oral health of individual patients is the result of the interplay between a number of “dental behaviours” including dental office attendance, dietary habits and oral hygiene practices.

For decades Clinical Dentistry has recognised the fundamental role that oral hygiene plays in the effective and continued management of oral diseases between dental visits. Therefore, the role of daily plaque removal by brushing and interdental cleaning is universally and routinely emphasised by Dental Professionals as an integral part of patient education during regular dental visits.

While mechanical cleaning dislodges the plaque bacteria that contribute to periodontal disease1, data suggests that, for a number of reasons, this is not enough for the majority of patients to maintain good levels of oral health.2,3


Patients’ deficiencies in their oral care routines include:


  • The average brushing time is 46 seconds4
  • Only 31% of people claim to clean between their teeth with floss6 despite agreement that flossing is necessary to protect oral health5,6
  • Patients can lack the manual dexterity, the time or find flossing painful7,8


“Use of a toothbrush…is almost universal but the majority
of the population do not clean thoroughly enough to prevent plaque accumulation”9


Current situation in the UK

The Adult Dental Health Survey (ADHS) found that:

Plaque can cause periodontal disease, including gingivitis and periodontitis11.



Key recommendations from BSP and EFP



  1. Chapple ILC et al (2015) ‘Primary prevention of periodontitis: managing gingivitis’, J Clin Periodontol; 42 (16): S71-S76
  2. Boyle P et al (2014) ‘Mouthwash use and the prevention of plaque, gingivitis and caries’, Head & Neck Oral Diseases; 20(1): 1-76.
  3. Barnett ML (2006) ‘The rationale for the daily use of an antimicrobial mouthrinse’, JADA; 137: 16S21S.
  4. Gallagher A et al. The effect of brushing time and dentifrice on dental plaque removal in vivo. J Dent Hyg 2009; 83(3): 111-116
  5. FDI World Dental Federation. How to keep your mouth healthy throughout life. https://www.fdiworlddental.org/how-practice-good-oral-hygiene [accessed 25 May 2022]
  6. European Federation of Periodontology. Gum disease: Prevention. https://www.efp.org/gum-diseases/gum-disease-prevention/ (accessed 25 May 2022)
  7. Dentavox. Why people give up on flossing. Based on results from “Do you floss” survey, completed by 300 respondents in the period 09/07-07/08/2019. dentavox.dentacoin.com
  8. Ipsos. National Dental Hygiene Survey. Ipsos poll: June 27-28, 2017. https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/news/documents/2017-10/Nati... (accessed 25 May 2022)
  9. Van der Weijden F, & Slot DE., Journal of Clinical Periodontology (2015):42(61):77-91
  10. Adult Dental Health Survey 2009. Office of National Statistics (2011). Available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/adu... [Accessed May 2022]
  11. Department of Health and Social Care: Delivering better oral health: an evidence-based toolkit for prevention (2021): Chapter 5. Available at:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/delivering-better-oral-health-an-evidence-based-toolkit-for-prevention/chapter-5-periodontal-diseases [Accessed May 2022].
  12. BSP: Implementation of European S3-level evidence-based treatment guidelines for stage1-3 periodontitis in UK clinical practice (2021). Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0300571220303109 [Accessed May 2022].
  13. Slot DE., et al., International Journal of Dental Hygiene (2012);10(3):187-97.
  14. EFP: Guidelines for effective prevention of periodontal diseases (2014). Available at: https://www.efp.org/news-events/perio-workshop/past-workshops/perio-workshop-2014 [Accessed May 2022]
  15. Salzar S. et al., Journal of Clinical Periodontology (2015);16:92-105.

Page Last Updated

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Date of preparation: September 2023