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​Global Survey: Brits know the risks on dental disease, but aren't taking action

UK trumping US on oral health, but lagging behind Mexico, Poland, Brazil

20 March 2017

Brits know the risk but are lagging behind Brazilians, Mexicans, South Africans and Poles when it comes to making the right choices to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

On World Oral Health Day (20 March), the British Dental Association is myth busting what people around the world believe to be good oral health practices, encouraging them to become better informed and take action.

The results from a global survey carried out in 12 countries by YouGov on behalf of the FDI World Dental Federation, expose a significant gap between what people in Great Britain believe to be good oral health practices, versus what they actually do.

  • Based on survey data from 12 nations, the UK ranks 3rd on awareness on the steps to ensure good oral health, behind just Canada and New Zealand, but 6th on actually taking action, behind Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Poland.
  • 78% of UK respondents can identify the need to seek help from a dentist when recognising signs of poor oral health (e.g. bleeding gums), yet only 41% would seek advice. 
  • Three out of four (78%) of respondents recognise the need to avoid excessive amounts of sugar. Only half (53%) of respondents said they are trying to cut down.    
  • 82% of people surveyed agreed that visiting a dentist once a year is good oral health practice, but only 66% actually did.
  • Britons are taking better care of their teeth than Americans.  Only 40% of US respondents say they avoid sugar (compared to 53% of Brits), 51% of US respondents say they brush for 2 minutes twice a day (compared to 64% of Brits), and only 49% see a dentist every year (compared to 66% of Brits). The US ranks 9th for awareness on how to maintain good oral health, and 10th for taking action. 
  • Many Brits are following bad practice. Almost one third (30%) of UK respondents think it is important to brush your teeth straight after every main meal. Whereas experts recommend waiting at least 30 minutes after eating to brush your teeth to avoid weakening tooth enamel. Nearly half (48%) of UK respondents say they rinse their mouth out with water after brushing their teeth. In fact, rinsing can actually remove the fluoride delivered during brushing.

British Dental Association Chair Mick Armstrong said:

"Brits might not be living up to the Austin Powers stereotype, but there really is no room for complacency when it comes to oral health. 

"The public seem to know the risks, but don't seem to be changing their behaviour. Without a step change in attitudes a preventable disease will continue to blight the lives of millions and put huge pressure on our NHS.

"Your teeth and gums can't be an afterthought. We need the public to take ownership of their oral health, and for the authorities to really start hammering these messages home."

Dr Patrick Hescot, FDI President added:

"These survey results highlight an alarming discrepancy between knowledge and actual good oral health practices.  

"We want everyone to take control of their oral health this World Oral Health Day and understand that by adopting good oral hygiene habits, avoiding risk factors and having a regular dental check-up, they can help protect their mouths."

'Aware of Mouth Smart' ranking - mean based on awareness of positive oral health actions

New Zealand2
Great Britain3
South Africa4
United States9


'Acting Mouth Smart' ranking - based on mean number of positive oral health actions

South Africa3
Great Britain6
New Zealand8
United States10


About the Survey

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 12849 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th and 31st January 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are nationally representative of all adults aged 18+ in GB (2090), the US (1145), Australia (1018), New Zealand (1055), Japan (1006) and Canada (1002); nationally representative, based around areas of all adults aged 18+ in Brazil (1000), Mexico (1006), Poland (1004) and South Africa (500); urban representative of all adults aged 18+ in India (1011) and Egypt (1012).

About the BDA

The British Dental Association (BDA) is the voice of dentists and dental students in the UK. We bring dentists together, support our members through advice and education, and represent their interests. As a trade union and professional body, we represent all fields of dentistry including general practice, community dental services, the armed forces, hospitals, academia, public health and research. We are owned and run by our members and all our income is reinvested for the benefit of the profession.

For further information, please contact the BDA's media team on 0207 563 4145/46 or visit the BDA's news centre. You can also follow news from the BDA on Twitter. Membership packages reflect the varied needs of dentists.

About World Oral Health Day and FDI World Dental Federation 

Celebrated annually on 20 March, World Oral Health Day (WOHD) was launched by FDI World Dental Federation to raise global awareness on the prevention and control of oral disease.

FDI World Dental Federation serves as the principal representative body for over 1 million dentists worldwide. Its membership includes some 200 national member associations and specialist groups in over 130 countries. FDI's vision: 'leading the world to optimal oral health'.