With NHS dentistry in the UK facing unprecedented levels of pressure, how can retailers help close the knowledge gap when it comes to shoppers’ oral health? We hear from Haleon on a new project in Tesco stores with this question in mind.

The scale of the nation’s oral health problem is undeniable. Last year, the British Dental Association  reported that NHS dentistry is at a “tipping point”, with nine out of 10 dental practices UK-wide unable to offer NHS appointments to new adult patients, while almost eight in 10 (79%) were not accepting new child patients.

But it’s not just a lack of access to dental care that’s the issue. Those who do have an NHS dentist are still struggling to get appointments or get regular advice – with time constraints cited as one of the main reasons preventing oral healthcare professionals from being able to routinely offer preventative care for their patients[Haleon Survey].

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The impact upon the nation’s oral health speaks for itself. In 2022 alone, 70,000 people were treated in emergency departments for tooth decay. Alarmingly, children are some of the worst affected.

Research from the 2022 Aquafresh Kid’s Oral Health report shows that 57% of respondents struggle to get a dentist appointment for their children[Aquafresh Survey] and almost nine out of 10 hospital extractions among children aged 0-to-5-years are due to preventable tooth decay, with tooth extraction also the most common hospital procedure in 6- to 10-year-olds.

So, what can be done to help ease the burden on NHS dentistry? And how is Haleon leading the way?

Closing the knowledge gap

The key to helping alleviate the state of the nation’s oral health is education around the health implications of not maintaining consistent oral care practices – and how consumers can be proactive in maintaining a good oral hygiene routine.

The importance of preventative oral healthcare has been acknowledged by the Department of Health[Better Oral Health toolkit] as playing a significant role in sustaining health, and through better preventative actions, patients are more likely to protect themselves against tooth decay, gum disease and more serious issues.

Although 86% of oral health professionals believe that preventative oral healthcare advice is beneficial for patients[Haleon survey], Haleon’s research findings suggest that this advice is not being shared as freely as it could be – with one in four of all patients (21%) surveyed saying that they hadn’t received preventative advice during their last visit to an oral health professional[Haleon survey].

Consumers are, in fact, open to preventative advice and 88% find the advice helpful when provided by an oral health professional[Haleon survey]. But without regular guidance from oral health experts to increase consumer awareness around what they can do to maintain their oral health, more work is clearly needed in order to bridge the knowledge gap.

The role of retailers in empowering self-care

Retailers will therefore continue to play a valuable role in encouraging shoppers to take a proactive interest in their own health. The key to success here is communicating the benefits of oral self-care to shoppers at fixture and point of purchase. In-store signage in the form of point of sale and displays will also play an important role in educating shoppers, not just on what makes up a good oral health self-care regime, but how specific products can support with certain needs.

Bas Vorsteveld, general manager GBI at Haleon, says:With so many consumers finding it challenging to get regular access to dental professionals, it has never been more important for retailers to offer shoppers a wide range of self-care options. Since 41% of consumers want to learn more about preventative care from their oral health professional[Haleon survey], there is a major opportunity for retailers and suppliers to step into the void and offer that all important support. We want to use our expertise to provide shoppers with our best advice in-store on how to maintain good oral health routines, and our retail partners are instrumental in driving this change.”

How Haleon is educating and empowering shoppers

To ensure oral care products are easily accessible to shoppers, Haleon has created a differentiated in-aisle fixture to make shopping for oral care products as convenient, informative and accessible as possible which will be installed in selected larger Tesco stores across the UK.

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Haleon’s in-aisle fixture for larger Tesco outlets

The new in-aisle fixture solution includes:
● Brand blockers on each shelf, providing simple education to empower Tesco shoppers to find the right solution for their needs.
● A framed ‘Expert Dental Care’ educational bay, featuring Haleon oral care brands Sensodyne, Corsodyl and Pronamel, which aims to disrupt and engage with shoppers.
● Shelf trays with colour range navigation to help to drive condition awareness and therefore help consumers navigate which dental care product suits their needs best, whilst offering reassurance by providing ‘Trusted dentist recommendation’ messaging.
● QR codes will host content from a digital platform for shoppers to discover more solutions for proactive self-care. The QR codes will be placed on brand blockers, offering Tesco customers the opportunity to access oral care and product guidance conveniently and easily. 

To find out more about Haleon’s campaign to encourage better self-care in oral health, please visit Our Consumer Healthcare Brands | Haleon.