New data from Bupa Dental Care reveals the UK's best and worst dental habits

17 July 2018 . United Kingdom

New research from Bupa Dental Care has found 2 million adults in the UK haven’t been to the dentist in more than 10 years.

  • A nationwide study has revealed that a shocking 2 million Brits haven’t been to the dentist for more than 10 years – with over a third admitting they ignore dental pain or mask it with pain killers
  • A quarter (22%) of adults would skip brushing when they’re in a rush
  • Three quarters (76%) of us have fillings, and a further two thirds of Brits (66%) have had at least one tooth extracted
  • A third of Brits never floss (34%) or visit their hygienist (33%)
Dental exam

The National Dental Survey from Bupa Dental Care – one of the UK’s largest providers of NHS and private dentistry – reveals the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to the dental habits across the country.

While the vast majority of us are getting it right with regular trips to the dentist and twice-daily brushing, the survey shows there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

As a result, Bupa Dental Care has provided top tips for getting your pearly whites back on the straight and narrow.

Dr Eddie Coyle, dentist and clinical director at Bupa Dental Care, said: “Brits are missing appointments, and even skipping brushing – but good dental care doesn’t have to be a chore. Dental decay is completely preventable with regular check-ups and simple changes to your daily routine.”

Key regional findings

  • Londoners are the biggest culprits for not brushing teeth – with nearly half (43%) admitting they skip it when in a rush.
  • The Welsh are the worst for forgetting to visit their dentist (27%), followed by the North East (26%) and West Midlands (24%) – with around a quarter of adults forgetting appointments in the last year.
  • As a result, it’s no surprise Wales also racked up the most dental procedures, with 84% having had a tooth extraction (UK average 66%), and 94% having had a filling (UK average 76%).
  • Despite their relaxed approach to brushing, Londoners have the best track record for maintaining their pearly whites – having the least amount of extractions and fillings across the country.
  • Northern Ireland, East Anglia and Yorkshire are setting the example when it comes to regular dental check-ups. The cities have the highest percentage of people who visit the dentist every 6 months.
  • People in London and the North East are the best when it comes to flossing at least once a day.

Dr Eddie Coyle’s top 5 tips for brushing up on your oral health

  1. Hate flossing? Start slowly! Did you know that 40% of your mouth’s surface is between your teeth? Cleaning between your teeth is essential for a full and comprehensive clean to remove bacteria.
  2. Don’t rinse with water after brushing. Rinsing your mouth after brushing can wash away fluoride from your toothpaste which is there to protect your teeth. Simply brush for a full two minutes, spit and go!
  3. Ditch the mouthwash. Mouthwash is great for a burst of minty freshness – but unless recommended for medical reasons – it isn’t totally necessary. Brushing, flossing and regular check-ups are enough to keep teeth healthy.
  4. Wait before brushing. Brushing too soon after eating can risk wearing away enamel. It’s best to wait at least an hour after eating, as this gives saliva time to neutralise acids in the mouth caused by foods.
  5. Don’t forget to see your dentist and hygienist. It sounds obvious, but not everyone does it! You should see your dentist at least twice a year and a dental hygienist once a year. Bupa Dental Care has more than 400 practices across the country offering private and NHS services – you don’t need to have private medical insurance to benefit from our expert’s care.

Behaviour-changing tips

Juliet Hodges, Senior Behaviour Change Advisor at Bupa, adds: “As humans, we are creatures of habit – so even though small changes to our oral health routine sound easy on paper, it’s not always that straightforward to change patterns we’ve developed over a lifetime. However, there’s plenty of things you can do to make the process easier and eventually these positive changes will become second nature.

“If remembering to floss is something you struggle with, one of the easiest things to do is set yourself a reminder – whether it’s an alert on your phone or a sticky note in your bathroom – it doesn’t have to stay there forever but it will help make sure it doesn’t fall off the radar initially.

“If you know you rush your brushing, try timing yourself. You might be surprised at how long two minutes actually is. After doing it a few times, you’ll get used to that period of time and eventually you’ll be able to judge it yourself.

“Whatever techniques you try, remember that consistency is the key. When you do something consistently over a period of time, the behaviour starts to become automatic and you are therefore much more likely to continue with it long term.”

Notes to editor

About the research

The research was conducted for Bupa Dental Care by Atomik Research. Survey sample of 2,007. The research fieldwork took place in March 2018.

About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives and making a better world.

We are an international healthcare company serving over 31 million customers worldwide. With no shareholders, we reinvest profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers.

We directly employ around 85,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Chile, Poland, New Zealand, Hong Kong SAR, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, the US, Middle East and Ireland. We also have associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

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