Revealed: the nation's dental care habits under the spot light

Poor dental and oral care is putting millions of people in the UK at risk of health issues. New research has discovered all too many adults are unaware of just how important a healthy mouth is - leaving them vulnerable to gum problems, such as bleeding gums, tooth loss and even a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease (i).

The research was commissioned by the Simplyhealth Advisory Research Panel (ShARP) to find out more about the nation's oral health habits, and the different attitudes between genders. The panel is a body of independent experts set up to help communicate the latest intelligence on a variety of important health areas. They have been brought together by Simplyhealth - one of the UK's leading healthcare providers. ShARP takes a closer look at the UK's oral care habits.

In the new study (ii) by ShARP, a total of 2,000 people aged 25 to 65 across the UK were surveyed - 62% were female, 38% were male. The ShARP research found that:

  • The average time people spent brushing their teeth was two minutes and 13 seconds
  • Half (50%) of respondents said they brushed for two minutes or less, and one in 10 brushed for less than a minute
  • Nearly three quarters of those questioned (73%) said they only changed their toothbrush every six months or more

Habits: Women vs. Men:

Women were more likely than men (25% compared to 20%) to clean between their teeth to remove bacteria and debris every day, though more than half (54%) said they only cleaned between their teeth occasionally
Women were more likely to use dental floss than men, and men were more likely to use a toothpick than women. Nearly a third (30%) admitted they sometimes use a mouthwash instead of brushing - men were more likely to do this than women (39% compared to 25%)

Women were more likely than men (83% compared to 69%) to say that it was important to remove bacteria from the mouth on a daily basis

Men were twice as likely as women to change their toothbrush just once a year (11% compared to 6.3%)
Nearly half (45%) of all respondents said a day was the longest they had gone without brushing their teeth, however men were more likely than women to leave it longer between brushes - 19% admitted going without brushing for up to two days compared to 14% of women One in 20 men went without brushing for up to four days compared to just 1% of females

Men were more likely to blame partying and work for not brushing, while women were more likely to blame the delay on travelling on an aircraft

More than half of all respondents (59%) said they would refuse to lend their own toothbrush to anyone. Of the 41% who said they would lend out their brush, most (23%) said it would be to their partner, with just 5% saying they would lend their brush to their child

Gum disease signs

Nearly two thirds (63%) admitted they had noticed blood in their spit at some time or other after brushing their teeth - a classic symptom of gum disease. Nearly four out 10 (38%) said this was at least once a week, with 13% saying it was every day or almost every day. More than half (53%) thought blood in spit was considered a worrying sign and a greater number (60%) said they would be worried about their children leaving blood in their spit. Only under half (45%) correctly thought that blood in the spit or in the sink after brushing could be a sign of potential tooth loss later in life.

Health links: Mixed bag of knowledge

More than three quarters of those questioned (80%) agreed that there was a link between oral health and general health - men were far more likely than women (27% compared to 16%) to wrongly presume that there is no connection. Respondents showed a mixed bag of knowledge when it comes to the health conditions that poor oral health is linked with. Nearly half (42%) thought gum disease and tooth loss (42%) were linked with oral health issues, followed by heart disease (26%), diabetes (15%), cancer (14%), poor pregnancy outcomes (7%), osteoporosis (6%) and stroke (34%). In fact, all these conditions are linked with poor oral health. Three quarters of those polled said they would aim to brush their teeth better and take better care of their dental health if they knew for certain that poor oral health was associated with serious health conditions.

However, men were more likely than women (27% compared to 22%) to refuse to change their current oral care regime even if they were aware of a health link.

Tooth loss

Men were less likely than women to care about the effect a person's lost teeth had on their appearance and were more likely than women to say that lost teeth made no difference to them at all (16% compared to 11%). Men were far more likely than women to be unconcerned about losing teeth themselves in later life (51% compared to 31%).

Embarrassing moments

When it comes to the sorts of foods that are most likely to get lodged between the teeth and become annoying, bits of gristle from meat was named as the worst with more than a third (35%) of respondents complaining about the problem. This was followed by peanuts and other nuts (20%), vegetables such as spinach (11%), crisps (10%) and bread (6%).

Visiting the dentist

Nearly half (50%) of respondents questioned admitted the cost of going to the dentist has put them off visiting a dentist for a check-up or routine dental work - 15% said this was a common occurrence. When it comes to covering the cost of dental care, nearly two thirds (62%) said they would be happy to pay the equivalent cost of a newspaper a day to make sure their or their family's dental health was secure. The vast majority (91%) felt it was important to have regular check-ups at the dentist, however 21% of women and 29% of men admitted they hadn't visited a dentist in the last year for a check-up or any other work.

(i) increased in periodontitis: a meta-analysis. Am Heart J 2007, 154, 943-57; Taylor BA, Tolfer GH, Carey HM, et al. Full mouth tooth extraction lowers systemic inflammation and thrombotic markers of cardiovascular risk. J Dent 2006, 85, 74-8; The relatively small follow up period for the patients in these studies did not establish whether such a reduction in CRP levels was cardio-protective; Offenbacher S, Beck JD, Moss K, et al. results from the periodontitis and vascular event (PAVE) study: a pilot multi-centred, randomised control trial to study the effects of periodontal therapy in a secondary prevention model of cardiovascular disease. J Periodontol 2009, 80, 190-201; Amar S, Gokce N, Morgan S, et al. Periodontal disease is associated with brachial artery endothelial dysfunction and systemic inflammation. Arterioscer Thromb Vasc Biol 2003, 23, 1245-49; Gomes-Filho IS, et al. The association between postmenopausal osteoporosis and periodontal disease. J Periodontol 2007, 78, 1731-1740; Tezal M, et al. The relationship between bone mineral density and periodontitis in postmenopausal women. J Periodontol 2000, 71, 1492-1498; Swoboda JR, et al. Correlates of periodontal decline and biologic markers in older adults. J Periodontol 2008, 79, 1920-6; Renvert S et al. Osteoporosis and periodontitis in older subjects participating in the Swedish national Survey on Aging and Care (SNAC-Bleking). Acta Odontol Scand 2011, 64, 201-7: Lamonte MJ, et al. Five year changes in periodontal disease measure among post-menopausal women. The Buffalo osteoperio study. J Periodontol 2012, 19, Epub;Xiong X, Buekens P, Fraser WD, Beck J, Offenbacher S. Periodontal disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes: a systemic review. Br J Obst Gynecol 2006; 113; 135-143
(ii) Omnibus survey; One Poll; August 2012


About ShARP
To help communicate the latest studies and intelligence on oral care matters and a variety of other important health areas, Simplyhealth - one of the UK's leading healthcare providers - has launched a new information group. The new Simplyhealth Advisory Research Panel - ShARP - will become a leading source of information and data, helping to make more people feel better by exploring ground-breaking research and discussing the latest scientific and medical thinking.
- The new Simplyhealth Advisory Research Panel - ShARP - will:
- provide independent and objective information about key health concerns;
- provide experts for journalists and media on all aspects of  health;
- deliver breaking news on health issues and research that affect individuals and families
ShARP is a panel of experts. They are:
- Professor Robin Seymour, a periodontal expert
- Dr Gill Jenkins, a practising GP with an interest in lifestyle health
- Dr Catherine Hood, a women's health expert
ShARP will become a leading source of information and data, helping to make more people feel better, by exploring ground-breaking research and discussing the latest scientific and medical thinking.

Cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease affects nearly three million people in the UK and is the single biggest cause of death. Nearly half of us will die from a related condition, usually from a heart attack or stroke and often without showing any symptoms beforehand. Every year in the UK about 250,000 people die from a heart attack while each year in England and Wales about 100,000 people have a first stroke. Of these stroke victims only a third make a good recovery (xiii). The cost to the UK economy form cardiovascular disease is estimated to be around £30 billion a year (xiv).

About Simply Health

- We became Simplyhealth in 2009 after bringing together HSA, BCWA, LHF, HealthSure, Totally Active, our   family of health companies have joined together over the last ten years to form Simplyhealth

- We've been providing healthcare solutions for 140 years, dedicated to serving our customers and patients through a variety of cash plans, dental plans, private medical insurance, self funded health plans and mobility and living aids 

- Simplyhealth is a trading name of Simplyhealth Access, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority Simplyhealth as it stands today, now covers nearly four million people with health plans (more than any other company) and helps 20,000 companies with their employees' health

- Simplyhealth is committed to making a positive impact on its communities. Each year, we donate over £1 million to  health related charities and causes


The information contained in these articles is intended to be for general interest, and should not be relied upon for specific conditions or complaints. You should always consult your GP or other healthcare practitioner for specific advice. The information provided is not the opinion of Simplyhealth and has been sourced through a third party.