According to Unum UK, 21 per cent of employees — equivalent to 6.3m people of working age —avoided dental appointments in 2023 due to fears over the expense.

It said the findings demonstrate that the cost-of-living crisis remains a key concern, even for important healthcare such as dentistry. It also reinforces the significant financial barriers for many seeking essential dental care, with many forced to forego routine check-ups and treatments to make ends meet.

The four per cent rise in NHS dental charges in England, effective April 1, 2024, could increase this added Unum UK.

Four in five dentists are now taking only private patients. So patients have looked to other solutions to cover the costs, be that from insurers, employers or healthcare providers.

Unum UK is a provider of employee benefits with over 40 years of experience. Its dental division saw a strong surge in claims paid in 2023 — up by 29 per cent in monetary terms to £31m and also by 29 per cent in the number of claims paid from 2022.

It said the trend demonstrates that demand is rising for workplace solutions to bridge the gap and mitigate the shortage of NHS dentists.

Clare Lusted, head of product proposition at Unum UK, said, “Access to dentistry is a basic expectation, yet millions in the UK are facing barriers, be it financial or geographic, in obtaining oral healthcare. As the connection between oral health and overall wellbeing becomes increasingly evident, there is a growing imperative to prioritise preventative health services as a proactive strategy for addressing dental issues and promoting holistic wellbeing.

“Unum Dental recently partnered with digital dentist Toothfairy to provide insured employees with access to high-quality everyday preventative dentistry services, and with initiatives like this leading the way in corporate dental insurance, there is hope for a brighter future where individuals can access the oral care and support they need to thrive in the workplace. However, we urge the government to ensure equitable access for all. It's time for decisive action to prioritise oral health as an integral component of societal wellbeing.”