The Dentist Magazine.

Global survey

Published: 05/04/2017

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 (March 20), the British Dental Association was 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 third on awareness on the steps to ensure good oral health – behind just Canada and New Zealand – but sixth on actually taking action – behind Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Poland.
  • Of the UK respondents, 78 per cent could identify the need to seek help from a dentist when recognising signs of poor oral health (such as bleeding gums), yet only 41 per cent would seek advice. 
  • Three out of four (78 per cent) of respondents recognise the need to avoid excessive amounts of sugar. Only half (53 per cent) of respondents said they are trying to cut down.    
  • Of the people surveyed, 82 per cent agreed that visiting a dentist once a year is good oral health practice, but only 66 per cent actually did.
  • Britons are taking better care of their teeth than Americans. Only 40 per cent of US respondents say they avoid sugar (compared to 53 per cent of Brits), 51 per cent of US respondents say they brush for two minutes twice a day (compared to 64 per cent of Brits) and only 49 per cent see a dentist every year (compared to 66 per cent of Brits). The US ranks ninth for awareness on how to maintain good oral health and tenth for taking action. 
  • Many Brits are following bad practice. Almost one third (30 per cent) of UK respondents think it is important to brush your teeth straight after every main meal. Experts recommend waiting at least 30 minutes after eating to brush your teeth to avoid weakening tooth enamel. Nearly half (48 per cent) 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.


Mick Armstrong, chair of the British Dental Association, 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.”

Patrick Hescot, president of the FDI, 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."