Facts and Figures

National Smile Month reaches more than 50 million people each year and 40 years after its conception it has become the biggest and most effective annual reminder of the importance of good oral health.

But there is still more work to do. There is still some eye opening statistics which continue to shock and amaze us about our oral health.

Poor oral health isn’t just about problems inside the mouth. A smile is hugely important to our personalities, self-confidence, relationships and success.

Our general health is also at risk too as studies continue to associate poor oral health to serious health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, strokes, premature births and other major conditions.

To mark the 40th Birthday of National Smile Month we have out together 40 facts and figures about oral health which may surprise you:

Looking after our teeth

  • One in four adults admit they don’t brush twice a day, including a third of men.
  • One in ten admit they regularly forget to brush their teeth.
  • 42% of adults use just a toothbrush and toothpaste for their oral care.
  • Only 31% of adults use mouthwash.
  • Shockingly less than a quarter of adults use dental floss regularly.
  • One in three people have NEVER flossed their teeth.
  • The UK spends £5.8 billion a year on dental treatments.
  • Brushing only once a day means your 33% more likely to develop tooth decay.

Visiting the Dentist

  • 61% of adults in England, 60% in Northern Ireland and 69% in both Wales and Scotland now attend their dentists regularly. In 1978, the figure was just 44% in England and 39% in Wales.
  • Half of adults say they visit their dentist every 6 months and 21% of adults say they visit their dentist annually.
  • But a quarter of adults admit they have not visited a dentist in the past two years.
  • More than a quarter of adults only visit their dentist when they have a problem.
  • Around 2% of the population have never visited a dentist.
  • The UK is one of the most likely nations in Europe to visit their dentist for a check-up. The UK was ranked second (72%), after only the Netherlands (79%).

The state of our teeth

  • Only 6% of adults have no natural teeth. In 1978, the figure was as high as 37% in the UK.
  • The number of adults with 21 or more natural teeth has risen to 86% in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In 1978, this was as low as 68% in Northern Ireland.
  • Over four-fifths of the population have at least one filling.
  • On average each adult has seven fillings.
  • 31% of adults have tooth decay.
  • A whopping 74% of all adults have had to have a tooth extracted.
  • Only 9% of men and 11% of women have oral health which is classed as excellent.
  • 66% have visible plaque.
  • 29% of us suffer from regular dental pain.
  • Nearly half the population are unhappy with their teeth (48%) with discoloured teeth (64 per cent) the main reason for being unhappy.
  • Mouth cancer is the 10th most common cancer in men in the UK and 15th most common in women.

Our Children’s Teeth

  • A third of all children starting school each year have signs of tooth decay.Tooth extractions are the biggest reason children are admitted to hospital for general anaesthetics in the UK.
  • Sugar makes up 15% of the daily calories consumed by four to ten year olds.
  • In England, children and young people drink sugary soft drinks more often than anywhere else in Europe.
  • There has been an almost 20 per cent (19.6) increase in children being admitted to hospital with tooth decay between 2010 and 2015.
  • Two in three children aged 12 are now found to be free of visible dental decay. In 1973, this figure was less than one in ten.
  • But roughly 40% of children still do not visit the dentist each year.

Putting money where your mouth is!

  • 88% of adults have no dental insurance in the UK.
  • 63% of adults use NHS dentists rather than private due to cost reasons.
  • 19% have chosen to delay their dental treatment due to cost.
  • One in ten would cut oral care products from their shopping list for financial reasons.

Our dental fears

  • Almost half of UK adults have a fear of the dentist.
  • 12% of these suffers from an extreme dental anxiety.
  • Women are more likely to suffer from extreme dental anxiety than men.
  • Visiting the Dentist is ranked number one (22%) for making people nervous, even more popular than heights (19%).

10 Bonus Fun Facts

  • It takes 43 muscles to frown but only 17 to smile.
  • A ‘smile’ is top of the list of things we first notice when meeting a new person.
  • More than half of us wouldn’t tell a friend or colleague if they had bad breath in fear of risking a friendship.
  • Our teeth and smiles are rated the second most important attractive feature by both men and women, only behind personality.
  • More than half of us would share our toothbrush with somebody: 24% to our partner, 18% to our child, 7% to a friend and even 6% to a celebrity.
  • One in five of us cannot remember when we last changed our toothbrush.
  • A toothbrush is the number one thing we cannot do without when we go on holiday.
  • If we only had five minutes to get ready in the morning, one in twenty would skip brushing our teeth.
  • Yellow is the colour that makes us smile the most, whereas purple makes us smile the least.
  • Chocolate is the food that makes us smile the most, followed then by Sunday roast, a curry and a fry-up!


  1. Adult Dental Health Survey 1978 and 2009 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland). Some data is not available for Northern Ireland in 1978
  2. The Scottish Health Survey: Volume 1: Main Report
  3. NHS Dental Epidemiology Programme for England; Oral Health Survey of five year old children, 2011/2012
  4. NHS Dental Epidemiology Programme for England; Oral Health Survey of five year old children, 2007/2008
  5. Oral Health – Special Eurobarometer 330, February 2010
  6. British Dental Health Foundation Survey, 2010
  7. R. Wolff, B.S. Michalowicz et al, University of Minnesota, 2009 – A. Brodsky, S. Strauss et al, New York University, 2009
  8. Andriankaja, O., et al, University at Buffalo, 2009
  9. The Karolinska Institute in Sweden, 2011
  10. Mouth Cancer Action Survey, British Dental Health Foundation, 2013
  11. British Dental Health Foundation Survey, 2013