24 Aug 2021 --- A survey by multinational pharmaceutical company GSK Consumer Healthcare and market research firm Ipsos reveals that public awareness of the wider benefits of good oral health is low. We spoke to Dr. Stephen Mason, Medical Lead at GSK Consumer Healthcare Oral Health, to find out more about the recent research and what it means for our understanding of the impact oral personal care can have on beyond our teeth.
Prior to your research, what was the current understanding of the relationship between oral care and health implications?
While the association between oral health and overall health had been well documented by the scientific community, with studies from Harvard Medical School and Cochrane Oral Health Group demonstrating links between poor oral health and wider systemic diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, public awareness on the subject has remained worryingly low.
The new research from Ipsos, conducted in partnership with GSK Consumer Healthcare, points to this. Our findings give highlight to concerns that the majority of consumers may not be proactively looking after their oral health as they should be and, therefore, risk not experiencing the wider health benefits that good oral health may bring.
What motivated you to research the impact and role oral care plays on health and the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, for example?
Click to EnlargeGood oral health habits are critical to our overall health and in the age of self-care, we know that people want to take more control of parts of their everyday health. The study we conducted with Ipsos in July last year found that more than two-thirds of consumers claimed they were actively prioritizing their health in their day-to-day decision making, which poses the question, ‘how can people do so if they are not aware of the benefits of good oral health to their overall health?’
Public understanding of the importance of oral hygiene is often low and better education about its avoidable impacts on our wider health is urgently needed, particularly in the wake of COVID-19 when many people were worried about visiting the dentist due to concerns of transmission, and when dental practices in many nations closed down or saw their capacity significantly reduce. As a global consumer healthcare company, we know that we have a responsibility to help bridge this knowledge gap and educate the public to give them the confidence they need to look after their health, and in particular, their oral health.
What were your core findings?
Our study revealed that there is low public awareness on the benefits good oral health can have on supporting healthier pregnancy, reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and maintaining blood sugar levels.
Our findings showed that less than half of women (47%) were aware of the benefits good oral health can have on pregnancy. Regarding blood sugar level, only 44% of over 50s, (a higher risk group and most likely to develop type 2 Diabetes), were aware of oral health links to diabetes, pointing to an important need for targeted awareness and education.
On a more positive note, our study demonstrated that oral health links to cardiovascular disease were better recognized, given that academic research shows that people with severe gum disease are at higher risk of heart disease.
How do these findings progress our understanding of the role oral care plays on health, and the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, for example?
We hope these findings will help raise awareness and start an open dialogue into the relationship between our oral health and wider health. The study also presents the opportunity for a wider educational movement in this space and around prevention more broadly, consistent with this year’s World Health Organization/World Health Assembly resolution on oral health.
What do these findings indicate about oral care and its importance?
The association between oral health and overall health has been the subject of extensive research by the scientific community for many years now. However, it is clear that public awareness of the wider benefits of good oral health remains low, and that is worrying.
Click to EnlargeAs a global consumer healthcare company, we must collaborate and work closely with all front-line health workers, including dentists and pharmacists, as well as government organizations and retailers to help empower consumers to better look after their oral hygiene, if we are to yield the benefits of good oral health care.
What impact do you hope these findings will have on the understanding of oral care as part of our personal care routines?
In the age of self-care, being healthy is not just about looking and feeling healthy in ways such as making healthy lifestyle choices with food and exercise. It is about the day-to-day, behind-the-scenes habits, like regular toothbrushing using proven consumer healthcare products and regular visits to the dentist, that truly have the biggest impact on our overall health.
With these and our other findings, we hope to begin to educate more people about the importance of good oral healthcare, so they feel empowered to take responsible action and implement good, sustainable healthcare routines.
What can brands do to support consumers with their oral care routines?
First and foremost, brands need to listen to the needs of their consumers to ensure they are arming the public with trusted products, tools and information that will help empower them to practice better oral health care routines which will, in turn, have a positive impact on their overall health. We need to make sure that we are communicating with and reaching our consumers in ways that are convenient for them and that resonate with them.
Ultimately, we need to work together to help consumers see the wider benefits of good, sustainable oral healthcare habits, from regular toothbrushing using the right specialized products to regular visits to the dentist.
By Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe, BPC Insights Senior Reporter