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Filling the gap: 9.4 million brits have performed a dental procedure on themselves

  • 12% have been removed from their NHS list in the last year
  • One in ten (10%) say they cannot get registered at an NHS dentist and this puts them off going

A fifth (18%) of UK adults - equivalent to 9.4 million people - have performed a dental procedure on themselves1, new research from Canada Life reveals. This comes as 6.5 million (12%) people admit to not having seen a dentist for more than five years, despite NHS guidance recommending individuals visit one every two years2.

Nearly half (48%) of UK adults say they have been put off going to the dentist. When asked why, 13% say they can’t afford it, and 12% are afraid or have a phobia of the dentist. One in ten (10%) cannot get registered at an NHS dentist, and 8% haven’t seen a dentist in a long time and are worried their teeth will need a lot of work. For 7%, a lack of appointments at times which suit them put them off and a further 7% say their dentist has gone private and they either can’t afford, or don’t want to pay for private dentistry.

Despite oral hygiene playing a key role in our overall health and wellbeing, 18% of UK adults are not currently registered at a dentist - and with long NHS waiting lists, a further 12% have been removed from their NHS list in the last year.

 Jo Turner, Head of Product and Proposition, Group Protection, Canada Life commented: “It is really concerning to see such a significant proportion of people not being able to access a dentist. Unfortunately, it is now well known that dentistry on the NHS is becoming less available and consequently, some people find themselves being removed from patient lists and therefore seeking more expensive private treatment.  It’s very worrying that some feel there is no alternative than to perform DIY dentistry.”

More than a fifth (22%) of respondents receive dental insurance or benefits through their employer, and of those 73% have used it. Of those who do have access to dental benefits, over two fifths (42%) said it increased their likelihood of seeing a dentist.

Canada Life’s Jo Turner continues: “With health services being squeezed, employers can play a role in recognising dental benefits as a core pillar of their employee benefit programmes. At Canada Life we offer ToothFairy4 for example, a smart dental app which enables employees access to virtual assessments, prescriptions and the ability to connect directly to a dentist from the comfort of their home. Research indicates that health and dental insurance are considered to be highly desirable company benefits. Benefits such as ToothFairy not only helps with retention, but also may help to alleviate pressure from our NHS.”


Notes to editors

  1. Survey conducted by Opinium among a nat rep sample of 2000 UK adults between 8-12 March 2024
  2. NHS Dental Check up
  3. Survey conducted by Opinium among a nat rep sample of 2000 UK adults between 11-15 August 2023. The respondents were asked to select what they considered to be the most desirable company benefits, perks and policies that a company can offer, excluding competitive salary, annual leave, L&D allowances and flexible/hybrid working conditions.
  4. Available on all Canada Life Group Protection products, Toothfairy grants employees with unlimited access to a powerful chat function 24 hours a day seven days a week, connecting them directly to a dentist and signposting to clinical referrals. They also have access to virtual assessments, advice, and obtain any prescriptions they need for urgent issues and routine checks, as well a 10% discount on cosmetic dentistry such as teeth straightening and teeth whitening. Please visit here for more information.

Toothfairy® is a non-contractual benefit provided through Canada Life and can be altered or withdrawn at any time.


Press enquiries should be directed to:

Lizzie Murray, Vested, 07914 698 310,

Elle McAtamney, Canada Life, 07913 568213,

 About Canada Life

Canada Life is part of a group of companies controlled by Great-West Lifeco Inc., a diversified financial services holding company headquartered in Winnipeg, Canada. Through its subsidiary companies, Great-West Lifeco has operations in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Great-West Lifeco and its insurance subsidiaries have received strong ratings from major rating agencies.  Great-West Lifeco has over 38 million customers worldwide and £1.532trillion assets under administration (as at 31 December 2022).

Canada Life Limited began operations in the United Kingdom in 1903 and looks after the retirement, investment and protection needs of individuals and companies alike. As well as providing stability and security through its individual contracts, Canada Life Limited has grown and maintained its position as the market leading provider of group insurance solutions.1 Canada Life acquired Retirement Advantage on 3rd January 2018 for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition added over 30,000 retirement income and equity release customers and more than £2 billion of assets under management including a £1.5 billion block of in-force annuities to Canada Life.

Canada Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Canada Life International Limited and CLI Institutional Limited are Isle of Man registered companies authorised and regulated by the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority. Canada Life International Assurance Limited and Canada Life International Assurance (Ireland) DAC are authorised and regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

Stonehaven UK Limited, registered in England and Wales no. 05487702. Registered office: Canada Life Place, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire EN6 5BA.

Stonehaven UK Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

  1. Canada Life MI & Swiss Re, 2022