To reply to the “Why do British people have bad teeth” question, I need a small introduction.
We are living in an era where the internet does play a vital role in our daily life regardless of our actual need. It is far well known that people consume and correspond to what has been shown on social media. Knowingly and unknowingly, we expose ourselves to thousands of information that might not be true or legit, and somehow, it remains in our subconsciousness for a longer duration. Have you ever watched a ten-second video ad on your Instagram about teeth whitening products and the next morning you start noticing some unusual appearance in your teeth? Well, you are not alone. There are many ads on social media that create stereotypes about teeth.
When we probe into the past, we came across this myth connected to British people and their bad teeth. This myth of the bad teeth became very famous in the past due to the appearance of teeth of a British film star in a famous comedy spy film (Austin powers), and of course, this myth was portrayed in a very famous TV cartoon, Simpson’s big book of British smiles. There’s always been a comparison between Americans and British teeth. The witticism continues about the bad British teeth up till now, and people started to create a theory out of it and start generalizing it as all the “British people have bad teeth” as compared to Americans.
Do all the British people have bad teeth?
That is the question that first comes up when we first think of this mythical theory.
Before assuming and generalizing this supposition, we need to look into the research and data presented.
Mick Armstrong researched in 2017, where an open poll was shared on oral health in 12 nations, across five continents. The research aimed to identify the number of people following the actual guidelines of FDI (knowing mouth smart and living mouth smart). The poll reveals some interesting and beneficial information such as
-53% of British people avoid sugar consumption as compared to 41% of Americans.
-64% of British people brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day compared to 51% of Americans.
-66% of British people see their dentist as compared to 49% of Americans.
However, the UK lags behinds Canada, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Poland on the awareness part (on the prevention of dental diseases).
Harvard study about missing teeth in the US vs. the UK
A systematic study done by Harvard University in 2015 showed that on average, the number of missing teeth in the United States was 7.31, much higher than England that was 6.79. In Britain, bad teeth are usually seen in older adults as compared to Americans. Mainly the differences between the two nations were due to income and education-related inequalities.
For all of us, the definition of healthy teeth differs. For some, healthy teeth could be white, straighten teeth. While for some, healthy teeth could be just natural teeth without any dental disease.
Researchers have found that Americans put great effort into dental aesthetics such as teeth whitening, teeth straightening, and fixing unpleasing smiles as compared to the British people who put the dental health first.
According to Richard Watt, for over 100 years, Americans were under the impression that they have beautiful teeth than the British. This impression leads to the formation of mythical stereotypes related to bad British teeth. Richard Watt’s research deduced that dental health conditions were much better in Britain than in the United States.
The notion of this “Hollywood smile” is changing the main idea of our natural smiles. Social stigma is being created linked to messed up teeth. Everybody appreciates an aesthetically pleasing (white and straight) smile compared to a natural crowded healthy smile. The ingraining of this idea is continuous through our fast internet world. As originated from the US, more Americans are being attracted to this term, as shown in our social media.
The fast-changing trends in dental health are changing the original concept of dentistry and is moving towards more cosmetic rather than prevention. The aim of dentistry should be prevention no matter where you live.