The British are often stereotyped for having a challenging dental care system and, perhaps as a result, less-than-perfect looking teeth. Actor Mike Myers played the role of Austin Powers in a series of movies that, with huge, blockbuster success, demonstrated this generalization with exaggeration. Sure, people all over the world found his shaggy hair, retro style, and crooked, discolored smile to be hilarious, but the truth is, it’s not that funny in reality. In fact, there’s quite a bit we could learn from our neighbors “across the pond,” as demonstrated by the recent Medical News Today article, “Many People Over the Age of 55 Regret Not Looking After Their Teeth in Earlier Life.”
The United Kingdom recently celebrated National Smile Month in an annual effort to improve the oral health of the country. As part of the campaign, results of a study were published by the British Dental Health Foundation, describing the dental state of different age groups across the nation. According to the research, approximately 20% of the British population wears full or partial dentures and about 2.5 million people have no natural teeth. This statistic may sound shocking, but it’s actually a huge improvement. Before the 1970s, oral health education in the UK was not readily available, and in 1968 it was estimated that about 37% of the population didn’t have any of their teeth remaining, almost double the current rate. According to Dr. Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, there is a strong message of regret coming from the senior citizens across the country, as many wish they hadn’t taken their teeth and smile for granted. Researchers also looked to younger Brits to collect data. It turns out that 2/3 of the participants, aged 16-24, claimed they are very image conscious about the appearance of their teeth, which experts are hoping means they will pay closer attention to their care.
In younger years, most people don’t fret about losing their teeth and having to replace them with dentures, implants, or bridges. However, it’s in the early stages of life where we establish our oral hygiene routine and set a path for the future of our mouth. It’s crucial to follow the simple steps of basic dental care: brush at least twice daily, floss regularly, and visit your dentist every 6 months for cleanings and check-ups. As seen in the United Kingdom, lack of education caused a national dental crisis that has taken decades to turn around. The moral of the story: we should learn from the past and not let history repeat itself. In other words, take care of your teeth. They’re the only set you’ll get.