Study on British teeth dispells myth about bad dental hygiene in England

The British Bite Back: Study Proves Americans Have Worse Teeth Than Our Briton Cousins

It’s high time Americans stopped cracking jokes about British teeth. A new study has proven that not only is the stereotype that Brits have poor dental hygiene a myth, Americans’ actually are the ones with the rotten smiles.

The joint American/British study that dispelled this myth didn’t come right out and say that people in the U.S. have poorer teeth than their English cousins, but the stats don’t lie.

The study’s title says it all: “Austin Powers Bites Back.”

Researchers from Harvard and University College London looked at two national health surveys in the U.S. and England, the Guardian reported. They compared missing teeth, how people perceived their dental health, and how dental issues — pain, difficulty eating, smiling, and socializing — affected daily life. The study also looked at information on education levels and household income.

The finding: people in the U.S. are missing more of their teeth than the British, and are more likely to have oral issues because of socioeconomic factors.

The study authors were very surprised, Dr. Richard Watt told the Washington Post. By the way, he’s not British, he’s Scottish.

“There is a longstanding belief in the United States that the British have terrible teeth, much worse than US citizens. This view dates back at least 100 years, with toothpaste adverts extolling the virtues of American smiles. Contemporary examples of this belief in popular US culture range from The Simpsons to the Hollywood character Austin Powers and his repugnant smile. Contrary to popular belief, our study showed that the oral health of US citizens is not better than the English, with Americans having significantly more missing teeth. In conclusion we have shown that the oral health of Americans is not better than the English.”

Americans are missing an average of 7.31 teeth, while the British are missing 6.97. And if one looks at just oral health, and doesn’t consider appearance, the British have the Americans beat, the Telegraph added.

The average number of missing for filled teeth in pre-teens is.07 in England and 1.3. in the U.S.; British decay and replacement rates are far below those in the U.S.; two in three English kids have no visible tooth decay; only 6 percent of British people have dentures or an empty mouth; and Britons are second only to the Netherlands in the check-up department.

And though a BBC TV doctor called Dr. Chris Van Tulleken went on record as saying his homeland is “internationally renowned” for its “really lousy” teeth, this pervasive misunderstanding across the pond may be rooted in the fact that stains and decay “don’t really bother” Britons, Watt said.

Of course, education levels and household income played a significant role in whether or not people had good oral health, this difference was much more pronounced in the U.S. The study authors theorized that England has “a more comprehensive range of ‘safety net’ policies,” which help the poor access dental health care more easily.

And when researchers examined how people perceived the condition of their oral health and how issues affected their daily life, they found that even though they have superior chompers, Britons complained more. Watt said this is probably just a cultural difference: “the English complain more!”

So, while the study didn’t come right out and say, bluntly, that Americans are the ones with bad pearly whites, the Brits remained polite and concluded that the study presented a “mixed picture:” more of us had gaps in our smiles, and more of them complained about dental issues.

Watt is optimistic about the results, and wondered if “perhaps now Americans will not laugh at English teeth anymore?”

Probably not.

[Photo by v.gi/Shutterstock]

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