Are Brits’ teeth really worse than Americans’?

Remember Austin Powers? The British smile has always been derided, but is the criticism grounded in truth?

Are British teeth worse than American - Notting Hill dental Number 18 Dental

As Brits, we’re used to jokes at our own expense. And we’ve been pretty resigned to the years’ worth of taunting from our American friends about the state of our teeth. But research from YouGov suggests all may not be as we think.

Minding the gap

The polling body set out to determine how 12 countries across the world fared when it came to our knowledge and practice of dental health.

More specifically, they looked at the gap between what we know we should be doing to maintain a healthy smile…and whether we are actually doing it!

How did Britain stack up?

The UK came in third place when it comes to knowing the risks associated with poor dental hygiene and lifestyle habits – behind Canada and New Zealand. But we came in sixth place when taking steps to prevent those – putting us behind Brazil and Mexico at the top of the chart.

While three-quarters of Brits understood the need to curb sugar consumption, only 53% actively do.

And even though 78% of UK individuals polled said they knew it was important to seek help for symptoms such as bleeding gums, the number who state they actually follow up on that advice plummets to just 41%.

How did the US stack up?

While we might have a bit of ‘brushing up’ to do, not as much as our US cousins it seems.

America came in ninth when understanding the right steps to take to keep their teeth pearly white. And a shocking tenth for acting on that advice.

Only 40% of Americans who responded to the poll said they avoid sugar, and 51% reported brushing for the recommended two minutes twice a day as opposed to 64% of us in the UK.

More shocking? Only 49% attend a dental checkup once a year, while Brits fare better at 66%.

HOW many gaps?!

That’s not all, in 2015, Harvard University conducted research into the number of missing teeth in the average mouth. It found that Americans are missing 7.31 teeth on average, compared to Brits who are missing 6.97.

That’s not all. Those with the worst teeth in Britain tend to be our older citizens, but in the US those with no teeth at all are actually of working age.

So why the myth?

According to Ben Atkins of the Oral Health Foundation, “The cliché probably started in the 1920s […] That’s when you had Hollywood coming to prominence around the world, and the big stars all had their teeth fixed with veneers or crowns. If you look, a lot of the British stars of that era had missing teeth.”

And so the false image us Brits are suffering with today likely rose to prominence.

Room for improvement

Although we did come out higher up the list, there’s still a lot of work we could be doing to look after our teeth. Some of it is also relatively easy.

In fact, Brits could be doing more harm than good simply by misunderstanding a few everyday dental health tips:

  • Around a third of Brits think they need to brush after a meal but that’s when tooth enamel can be at its weakest, so it’s best to wait half an hour.
  • Half of people also swill with water once they’ve brushed, but this can dilute the protective properties of fluoride toothpaste.

While the YouGov research doesn’t give a full picture, it does suggest we’re doing better with our oral health than popular culture would have us believe. But there is always room for improvement.

To find out how well you’re faring, book a dental checkup at our Notting Hill dental practice.

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