Oral health survey: UK adults smile less due to self-confidence issues

  • One in four adults don’t show their teeth when smiling due to self-confidence issues
  • One in seven adults say they have low self-esteem because of their teeth
  • A new oral health survey by Simplyhealth[1] also shows half of British adults don’t brush for the recommended two minutes

Oral health is having a significant effect on people’s self-esteem, with results of a new Simplyhealth consumer survey showing self-confidence is one of the biggest areas teeth negatively impact people’s lives. A shocking 23% of UK adults say they don’t show their teeth when they smile, 13% say they have low confidence issues because of their teeth and 8% avoid socialising because of the way their teeth make them feel.

The self-esteem impact is highest in women (17%) than men (11%) peaking at age 18-34 (27%). In the Midlands 28% of adults don’t smile because of the way their teeth look, dropping to 20% in the North East.

Dr Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Simplyhealth

Teeth aren’t often considered when we discuss mental health, but it very much should be. It’s important for everyone to start thinking about how their oral health might impact on all areas of our general wellbeing.

Self-confidence was one of the leading issues people are facing because of their teeth in our recent consumer oral health survey. Our smiles are such a huge part of our appearance, and this isn’t about cosmetic dental treatment, but goes to show the importance of looking after our teeth in our day-to-day lives. Focusing on prevention and oral hygiene on a daily basis protects us not only from tooth decay and gum disease, but also helps us feel more self-confident of our overall appearance.

Dr Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Simplyhealth

Some of the other oral health worries facing adults are tooth loss (37%), gum disease (36%) and tooth decay (37%). One in ten of adults are most concerned about how their teeth look in photos.

The survey also looked at the nation’s oral health habits with only half of adults (51%) brushing the recommended two minutes or more. Up to 20% of adults (25-34-year-olds) admit to sharing a toothbrush with another person and around a quarter of adults (23%) don’t floss, as it makes their gums bleed or hurt. Nearly one in five (19%) have taken time off work due to dental pain. “With busy lifestyles, it’s tempting to skip brushing or flossing, or delay visits to the dentist. But these daily habits make a huge positive impact on the appearance and overall health of your teeth and gums.

Dr Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Simplyhealth

A good oral hygiene routine is essential for keeping your teeth and gums healthy and could help you to avoid more complicated dental problems further down the line. Make sure you’re brushing for two minutes, twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque and food particles that can cause tooth decay and bad breath. If you haven’t used interdental brushes for a while, you may find your gums bleed slightly or are a little tender at first, but this soon goes away with regular flossing so don’t let this put you off. You’ll also find that you soon become more dextrous at flossing and it won’t take longer than a couple of minutes to do.

Dr Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Simplyhealth

To find out more about the nation’s oral health habits, read the full survey.

[1] Online survey of 5,060 adults conducted by Deltapoll on behalf of Simplyhealth, undertaken 8th- 11th October 2021. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the British adult population as a whole

Notes to Editor

About Simplyhealth

Since 1872, we’ve been helping people make the most of life through better everyday health. Our plans make sure individuals, families and employees can easily access in-person and virtual wellbeing services, and afford to stay healthy by claiming costs back on dental treatments, visits to the optician, complementary therapies and much more.

Today we’re a leading UK health solutions company, with almost 1000 colleagues serving 2.3 million customers. We don’t have shareholders, so we’re led by our purpose of improving access to healthcare, for the many, for the long term. We’re passionate about using our voice in public health affairs and partnering with charities to reduce health inequality – each year we commit to giving 10% of pre-tax profits to a range of community causes. And we ensure our business takes care of the planet too, achieving Carbon Neutral + status in 2021.

To find out more, visit www.simplyhealth.co.uk

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