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​Bad teeth hurting career prospects: YouGov poll

15 June 2016

Public say poor oral health ranks alongside scruffiness, and ahead of weight and dress code violations, as barrier to getting hired

Britain’s tooth decay crisis is damaging life chances, as new evidence reveals over three quarters of the population believe poor oral health will hinder job applicants. 

A new survey by YouGov for the British Dental Association shows that 77% of respondents felt that decayed teeth or bad breath would hinder a candidate's chances of securing employment in public or client-facing roles – while only half that number (38%) felt the same about being overweight.[1]

62% felt applicants with visibly decayed teeth, missing teeth or bad breath would be at a disadvantage securing any role, with 6 in 10 believing it could hinder promotion prospects.

The survey comes as MPs gather in Westminster to launch the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dentistry and Oral Health.

Tooth decay remains the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children.[2] Recent official data shows deep oral health inequalities are persisting, with a child born in Blackburn being nearly seven times more likely to experience decay than one born in the Surrey constituency of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.[3]

Independent studies have shown oral health problems can have a lasting impact on children's school readiness, impair their nutrition, development, and ability to socialise with other children.[4] More than a quarter of teenagers say they are too embarrassed to smile or laugh due to the condition of their teeth.[5] Dentists argue these new figures show why government must act to break the link between decay and deprivation. 

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, Chair of General Dental Practice at the British Dental Association, said:

“In a competitive jobs market people are realising that bad teeth mean bad prospects. This new evidence is a stark reminder that a winning smile isn’t just for fans of selfies, it’s for anyone who wants to get on in life. 

“Ministers have viewed oral health as an ‘optional extra’ for far too long. For the children lining up for tooth extractions in our hospitals decay has long-term consequences. Whether they grow up to be solicitors or receptionists, the state of their mouths can affect their life chances.

“The link between decay and deprivation is still going unchecked in England. We think all children deserve the best start, and government must do more than pay lip service to these shocking inequalities.”

The government recently announced 10 pilot preventive programmes in England targeting areas with high decay rates, but has not released any details of the scheme or pledged any dedicated funding.

Notes and references

1. Figures, where stated, are from YouGov Plc’s poll for the British Dental Association. Total sample size was 2028 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8-9 June 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

2. According to Public Health England figures published in March 2016, there were 40,970 hospital tooth extractions on under-18s in 2014-15 compared with 32,457 in 2010-11 – an increase of 26%.

3. Public Health England data showing wide variations in oral health outcomes of 5-year-olds was published in May 2016 .

The data indicates that 55.7% of 5-year-olds in Blackburn with Darwen have decayed or missing teeth, the worst rates of decay in England, compared to just 8.2% in Waverley, which boasts the lowest rate.

4. The National Children’s Bureau’s Poor Beginnings: Health Inequalities among young children across England shows that the first five years of a child's life are critical to their future development. Based on official data published by Public Health England, it looks at four key measures of young children's health and well-being - obesity, tooth decay, accidental injury and 'school readiness'. The report provides a clear picture of the health of children under five years old living in England and shows how growing up in different areas of the country has a dramatic effect on their lives.

5. See the Children's Dental Health (CDH) Survey 2013, published 19 March 2015.

About the BDA

The British Dental Association (BDA) is the professional association and trade union for dentists in the UK. It represents dentists working in general practice, in community and hospital settings, in academia and research, and in the armed forces, and includes dental students. The BDA promotes members’ interests, advances the science, arts and ethics of dentistry, and contributes towards improving the nation's oral health.

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.