Facts and Figures

With your support, National Smile Month reaches around 50 million people each year and is the biggest and most effective annual reminder of the importance of good oral health. But there is still more work to do. A third of all children starting school have tooth decay. Around a quarter of all adults say they have not visited a dentist in the past two years. Three in every ten adults suffer from regular dental pain. A quarter of adults don’t brush their teeth twice a day and over four-fifths of the population have at least one filling.

Poor oral health doesn’t just cause problems inside the mouth. A smile is hugely important to our personalities, self-confidence, relationships and success. 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, pneumonia, premature babies and other major conditions. With a good oral health routine, most of these conditions are preventable and your support during National Smile Month can make a big difference.
Brushing twice a day

  • One in four adults don’t brush twice a day, including a third of men
  • One in ten admit they regularly forget to brush their teeth

Cleaning habits

  • 42% of adults use just a toothbrush and toothpaste for their oral care
  • 31% of adults use mouthwash too
  • One in four have never used mouthwash
  • 21% of adults use dental floss regularly
  • One in three have never flossed their teeth

Visit the-dentist is funVisits to 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
  • 21% of adults say they visit their dentist annually
  • The UK is one of the most likely nations in Europe to visit their dentist for a check-up – helping to prevent the battle against poor oral health. The UK was ranked second (72%), after the Netherlands (79%)
  • Around 2% of the population have never visited a dentist
  • 27% of adults only visit their dentist when they have a problem

Tooth loss and dentures

  • Only 6% of adults have no natural teeth. In 1978, the figure was as high as 37% in Wales
  • 74% of all adults have had a tooth extracted
  • 19% cent of adults have full or partial dentures
  • 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

children-s-oral-healthChildren’s oral health

  • 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
  • The dental health of five year old children is even better – just 27% show any obvious dental decay


  • 88% of adults have no dental insurance
  • 63% use NHS dentists for cost reasons
  • 19% have delayed their treatment due to cost
  • One in ten would cut oral care products from their shopping list for financial reasons

Dental anxiety

  • One in every seven adults who had ever been to a dentist suffers from extreme dental anxiety
  • Women are more likely to suffer from extreme dental anxiety than men
  • The most common fears for visiting a dentist are having a tooth drilled (30%) and having a local anaesthetic injection (28%)
  • Visiting the Dentist is ranked number one (22%) for making people nervous, closely followed by heights (19%). Nearly 10 times as many people (22%) are nervous of visiting their dentists, compared to their doctor (2%)oral-health-indicators

Other oral health indicators

  • 84% of all adults have at least one or more fillings
  • Each adult has an average of 7 fillings
  • 31% of adults have tooth decay
  • 66% have visible plaque
  • 29% suffer from regular dental pain
  • Only 5% recycle their old toothbrushes. 59% throw them away. Around 35% use them for a difference purpose such as cleaning and other household chores

Fun facts

  • funny-image-with-the-smileyHalf of us brush our tongue when we brush our teeth
  • It takes 43 muscles to frown but only 17 to smile
  • Earrings, business cards, keys, matchsticks and screwdrivers – just some of the bizarre objects we admit to using to get food particles out of our teeth
  • On a night out, 80% of us would be more likely to talk to somebody we didn’t know if they smiled at us
  • A ‘smile’ comes top of the 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
  • Teeth/Smiles are rated the second most important attraction feature, after personality, and the most important body feature surveyed (including body shape, height, hair, face and eyes).In contrast, nearly half the population are unhappy with their teeth (48%) with discoloured teeth (64 per cent) the main reason for being unhappy
  • More than half of us would share our toothbrush with somebody: 24% to our partner, 18% to our child, 7% to a friend and 6% to a celebrity
  • Almost 60% of us say we regularly floss, however, sales in the UK indicate that the true figure is actually more like 5%
  • One in five of us cannot remember when we last changed our toothbrush
  • One in four think electric toothbrushes are for lazy people while a third believe they do not have to brush for as long when using one
  • dental-facts-with-the-dentistOne in five says that fluoride is a marketing gimmick
  • A toothbrush came top of the list of things we could not 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
  • More than half of us think Brits have bad teeth
  • The colour yellow makes us smile the most, whereas purple makes us smile the least
  • Chocolate comes top of the foods that make us smile the most, followed then by Sunday roast, a curry and a fry-up
  • When seeking a new partner, a smile is top of the most sought after physical attributes, beating body shape, dress sense and eyes


  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