The NHS could save £8.2m a year if all 12 year olds chewed sugar free gum after eating or drinking, a study has said.
A study by Plymouth University, published in British Dental Journal on Friday, has found that 35 per cent of 12 year olds say they are embarrassed to smile or laugh due to the condition of their teeth.
New health economic research demonstrates that the NHS could save up to £2.8m on dental treatments per year if every 12 year old were to chew one additional portion of sugar free gum a day.
If two pieces of gum were chewed, the savings rise to £3.3m, and three pieces raises the savings to £8.2m.
Chewing sugar free gum after eating and drinking increases the production of saliva, which helps to wash away food particles and neutralise harmful plaque acids which, over time, can weaken teeth and lead to tooth decay.
Professor Liz Kay of Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, and co-author of the study says:
The findings of this study are hugely exciting as they reveal a new and easy way of helping people improve their oral health.
Crucially, whilst these figures are significant, they refer only to cost reductions for treating 12 year olds in the UK; if this model was to be applied to the whole population then there is a real potential to create substantial NHS savings.
Clinical evidence has already proved that sugar free gum can help prevent caries and now we can also see a clear financial advantage.
Each week, more than 1 million patients in the UK use NHS dental services, many of them seeking dental disease treatments which cost the NHS £3.4bn a year.